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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely to persist in Mozambique through early 2021

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mozambique
  • June 2020 - January 2021
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely to persist in Mozambique through early 2021

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  • Key Messages
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist in the semiarid areas of southern Mozambique following crop failure and/or significantly below-average main season production. As the conflict intensifies in Cabo Delgado, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes also persist in this area, as an increasing number of people are displaced and lose access to their typical food and income sources. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are mostly present in areas where poor households are still recovering from previous shocks (cyclones, floods, and drought). In all other areas of the country, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected due to favorable food availability and access. Beginning in October 2020, food security is likely to deteriorate across southern Tete and other southern and central areas as poor households will have exhausted their below-average food stocks much earlier than usual and be employing unsustainable coping strategies driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    • As of June 29, Mozambique has 883 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in thousands of poor households in urban and peri-urban areas losing sources of income. A recent IPC analysis carried out by the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) and partners estimated that approximately 15 percent of the population of Maputo and Matola are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    • In May, the price of maize grain in central and northern markets decreased or remained stable. In the south, the price of maize grain has started to decrease due to increased supply of maize grain from the central region. However, the price of maize grain in these areas remains 20-60 percent above the five-year average. The price of maize meal and rice remained stable in May, except in Maputo, where the price of rice rose by 40 percent likely due to some temporary supply constraints.


    Current Situation

    Most rural households in central and northern Mozambique are relatively food secure and consuming their recently harvested crops from the 2019/20 agricultural season. However, in the southern semiarid areas of Gaza, Inhambane, northern Maputo, and the southern portions of Manica and Sofala provinces, poor rural households are facing food gaps driven by the third consecutive year of drought and resulting poor production and higher food prices. In Cabo Delgado, poor households are also facing food consumption gaps as a result of the impacts of ongoing conflict. In urban and peri-urban areas, poor households who have lost the ability to engage in their basic livelihood activities due to COVID-19 control measures are also struggling to meet their food needs.

    According to the May 10, 2020 Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) and field reports, estimates for grain maize production in southern Mozambique indicate crop ‘failure’ or significantly below-average production at more than 70 percent below average (Figure 1). In these areas, very poor and poor households without own production to consume or sell have insufficient income for market food purchases and are unable to meet their minimum food needs. The most vulnerable households, have prematurely begun engaging in unsustainable strategies including reducing the frequency and quantity of meals, withdrawing children from school, consuming seeds, and eating wild foods up to five months earlier than usual, driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Many poor households in these areas lost livelihood assets during the 2016 El Niño drought and have had little chance to fully recover, as the most recent drought is the third consecutive poor season. Furthermore, due to a lack of infrastructure and poor market access, only a small percentage of poor households are able to earn extra income through the sale of livestock (primarily chickens) or charcoal.  

    In northeastern Cabo Delgado Province, more intense and expanded conflict has led to the displacement of thousands of poor households who have lost access to their typical livelihood activities. The most affected districts include Mocímboa da Praia, Palma, Nangade, Quissanga, Macomia, and Muidumbe. Thousands of people from these and neighboring districts are fleeing attacks and seeking safe shelter in Pemba (the provincial capital) and its surrounding areas. Some displaced households are seeking shelter in the neighboring province of Nampula. Due to a lack of information about the situation on the ground, the magnitude of displacement and additional impacts remain unclear, though it is anticipated the conflict and resulting displacement is preventing many from engaging in agricultural production and labor activities. Preliminary estimates suggest close to 200,000 people in Cabo Delgado have been displaced and are likely in need of humanitarian assistance as they are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Households that have fled the violence are staying in IDP camps, neighboring villages, or in the homes of their relatives. The total number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and in need of humanitarian assistance could increase to over 200,000 as the number people unable to access their fields or engage in livelihood activities for fear of  sustained conflict and an escalation in attacks.  

    In the semi-arid zone of southern Tete Province, and Guro and Tambara districts in northern Manica Province, households who planted maize in November/early December had to replant in mid-January following a prolonged dry spell with abnormally high temperatures. The mid-January maize planting was impacted by the early cessation of rains in February, resulting in maize yields at least 60 percent below average. Most poor households have already exhausted their own food stocks and are dependent on market purchases. The poorest households in this zone are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and will continue expanding their livelihood coping strategies, such as consuming less preferred foods, producing and selling charcoal in more remote markets, selling more animals than usual, spending savings if available, or purchasing food on credit or borrowing food, in order to meet their basic food needs.

    According to the Ministry of Health, as of June 29, 2020, Mozambique has 883 confirmed cases of COVID-19 from 29,343 tests, and six deaths directly related with COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, the government of Mozambique first declared a State of Emergency for 30 days and has since extended it by 90 days, until July 29, 2020. From June 30 to July 29 some restrictions will be relaxed including a phased re-opening of schools, the re-opening of museums and galleries, and 50 percent of the workforce can be present in the workplace, with staff turnover every 15 days. The COVID-19 containment measures (including border closures except for essential goods and cargo, and restrictions on non-essential trade and work, among others) are primarily impacting poor urban and peri-urban households who are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2) after having lost access to their usual sources of income and are relying on alternative work, petty trade, and assistance from better off friends, family, and neighbors in order to purchase food. However, the poorest and most vulnerable households are facing difficulties finding alternative sources of income or support. An IPC analysis conducted by the Technical Secretariat of Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) and partners, carried out in May, estimated that approximately 15 percent of the population (365,000 people) in urban and peri-urban areas of Maputo and Matola are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In rural areas, the impacts of COVID-19 on food access for the poorest households is currently limited as the agricultural marketing systems are functioning at near normal levels, with constraints primarily related to roads and bridges damaged during the last rainy season, particularly in the north.

    While the main harvest has ended in much of the country, it is still ongoing in high production areas in the central and northern regions. Preliminary estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADER), indicate Mozambique will produce 2.8 million MT of cereals (maize grain, rice, sorghum, millet), a 7.8 percent increase compared to last year and above the five-year average. An estimated 2.1 million MT of maize was produced, followed by rice, sorghum, and millet at 376,000 MT, 287,000 MT, and 38,000 MT, respectively. Pulses and tubers are expected to yield 883,000 MT and 19 million MT, respectively, a 7 and 13 percent increase compared to last year. It is anticipated that cereal imports, particularly maize, will be lower than last year; however, almost all national wheat and nearly 50 percent of national rice needs will likely be imported. Residual soil moisture, crucial for the second season, is below average which is negatively impacting crop and vegetable production across central and southern Mozambique, and harvests are expected to be below-average.

    In the central and northern regions, maize grain prices decreased or remained stable in May, except in Mocuba where maize grain price increased by 19 percent due to increased demand by local and regional traders. In the south, maize grain prices have started to decrease after increased supply from the central region. In most monitored markets, prices of maize grain were 9-47 percent above their respective 2019 prices, and 20-50 percent above the five-year average. According to the latest Agriculture Market Information System (SIMA) weekly bulletin, published in the second week of June, the internal flow of maize grain is following normal patterns. Markets in the south continue to be supplied with maize from the central regions, mainly Manica and Sofala (Chimoio market and Nhamatanda district), and from locally produced maize. The central and northern region markets have been largely supplied by maize grain from within their respective regions.

    Maize meal prices from April to May 2020 were stable in most monitored markets, except for small fluctuations caused by temporary changes in supply. Prices were trending between 10-48 percent above last year, except in Gorongosa where they were 20 percent below last year, and Chimoio where prices were the same as 2019. Across the country, maize meal prices had mixed trends when compared to the five-year average.

    Rice prices have remained stable except in Maputo where they increased sharply by 40 percent, likely due to a temporary reduction in the supply. Rice prices were 18-37 percent above their respective 2019 levels, except in Gorongosa, Chimoio and Pemba where rice prices were similar to last year but 12-63 percent above the five-year average.

    SMART surveys conducted by SETSAN in Tete (Cahora Bassa, Chiúta, Mágoe, Marávia, and Mutarara districts) and Cabo Delgado (Ibo and Namuno districts) between November and December 2019, recorded Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM), (weight-for-height z-score (WHZ)), as Acceptable (GAM<5%) in Namuno, Mágoe, and Marávia districts; and Alert (GAM 5-9.9%) in Ibo, Chiúta, and Cahora Bassa. An IPC analysis of Acute Malnutrition (AMN) in May, 2020 classified Mágoe and Mutarara as Acceptable (GAM<5%); Ibo, Namuno, Cahora Bassa, and  Chiúta as Alert (GAM 5-9.9%); while Marávia was classified as Serious (GAM 10-14.9%). In Namuno and Marávia, mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) data, along with historical data, and input from field sources led to a higher malnutrition classification than the WHZ scores.

    Based on IPC AMN projections for April-November 2020, acute malnutrition is expected to worsen, to Serious (GAM 10-14.9%) in Ibo, Namumo, and Máravia districts and Alert (GAM 5-9.9%) in Chiúta, Mágoe, and Mutarara districts. In Cahora Bassa district, acute malnutrition is likely to be sustained at Alert (GAM 5-9.9%) up to September after which deterioration to Serious (GAM 10-14.9%) is projected. These levels of acute malnutrition are likely to be sustained to the end of scenario period in January 2021.

    The deterioration from April to the end of scenario period will be driven mainly by the projected reduction in food access due to the below-average crop production, particularly in Cahora Bassa, Mágoe and Mutarara in Tete Province, and the impacts of continued conflict in Ibo District in Cabo Delgado Province. Seasonal factors such as the deterioration in care practices of children and women during planting in October/November, and health related factors including the peak of seasonal diseases such as malaria and diarrhea from October will also contribute to an increase in acute malnutrition. In many of these districts, utilization of health services was low before the pandemic. Due to fear of catching COVID-19, there has been a notable reduction in demand for health services.

    Much of the humanitarian food assistance to support households during the October 2019 to March 2020 lean season ended in April 2020. In May, humanitarian food assistance (HFA) reached 165,470 beneficiaries, representing less than 20 percent of FEWS NET’s total estimated needs throughout the country. With this level of assistance, all areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes do not meet the necessary conditions to change the IPC Phase classification.


    The June 2020 to January 2021 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Forecasts available through USGS and NOAA indicate that at the October start of the 2020/21 rainy season and through January there are near equal chances of La Niña and neutral conditions ENSO conditions, with a slight tilt in the favor of  La Niña conditions. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is currently neutral but borderline negative conditions are most likely through the southern hemisphere winter. Based on these climate drivers, average rainfall from October 2020 to January 2021 is forecast.
    • National water supply is expected to be average. Rivers and dams in the north will continue to remain well supplied at average to above average levels. However, most of the southern region’s rivers and dams will remain well below average. The probability for the occurrence of floods and/or cyclones during the scenario period is average.
    • Based on available information from leading health experts including the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue during the scenario period. Within the 12 months following Mozambique’s 50th COVID-19 case, modeling by the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases will peak between 270,000 and 430,000, with the estimated peak occurring in September.
    • In urban and peri-urban areas, poor household incomes from formal and informal businesses are expected to remain drastically reduced and will lead to a rise in unemployment until COVID-19 control measures are lifted. With an increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases,  the government is expected to become stricter at enforcing preventive measures such wearing masks in public and socially distancing; while also relaxing other measures such as the number of people allowed to work, and the re-opening of businesses to reduce economic impacts.
    • Rural households are expected to receive below-average income from self-employment activities such as the sale of charcoal, firewood, and handicrafts due to low demand from urban centers.  Additionally, the likely increase in COVID-19 cases may affect the availability of labor for farming activities beginning in October 2020,  and impact income from the sale of livestock and goods for middle and better off households, especially for the upcoming 2020/21 agricultural season.
    • With the largest number of registered COVID-19 cases in Africa, South Africa will continue to restrict the entry of migrants from neighboring countries and beyond, seeking formal and informal employment. Deportations of Mozambican migrants are expected to continue throughout the scenario period, reducing the potential income of affected migrants and their families.
    • From June to August, agricultural labor activities are minimal and limited to areas with a second season. With the expected onset of the rainy season in October/November, agricultural labor opportunities are likely to gradually increase. Nationally, agricultural wages are expected to be close to average, except in the southern and central semiarid areas, where wages are expected to be below average due to low production in the 2019/20 season impacting middle and better-off household incomes. With a likely increase in the number of people engaging in the same self-employment activities such as handcrafting, charcoal, brewing traditional drinks, and brick making, combined with below-average demand, household incomes are expected to be below-average.
    • Wages are likely to be below normal in the south and parts of central Mozambique due to a decrease in seasonal production and reduced income for middle and better off households.
    • With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, international commodity demand has declined, putting downward pressure on energy and metal commodity prices. Forecasted prices for key sources of Mozambican export earnings are expected to remain below average through 2020 and are likely to take several years to recover to their respective 2018 or 2019 levels. These reduced export earnings coupled with reductions in other sources of key government revenues (e.g. tourism) are expected to result in the depreciation of the MZN against the USD in the second half of 2020.
    • Maize grain availability is expected to be near average due to average to above-average production in surplus producing areas. The southern region and southern Tete province, including most central and southern semiarid areas, will face maize grain deficits due to below-average 2019/20 maize grain production, a third consecutive poor to failed harvest, and below-average market supply to remote areas. Internal commodities flows to major markets are expected to take place at normal levels for major staples, including maize grain, moving from traditional high production areas to the deficit areas.
    • On average, Mozambique has a rice deficit of around 500,000 MT which is normally imported from international markets. Availability of imported rice is expected to be close to average; however, import prices are expected to be above average due to the depreciation of the MZN against the USD in the second half of 2020 and the somewhat above average global rice prices. Regional maize grain availability is expected to be average and exportable surpluses from South Africa (the main source of Mozambique’s maize grain imports) are expected to be above average. While COVID-19 related border restrictions are expected to result in temporary delays in maize grain deliveries to the Mozambican processing industry, aggregate imports from South Africa are expected to be near average.
    • Informal cross-border trade with South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Malawi is expected to be below-average, in part due to COVID-19 containment measures restricting border crossings to licensed traders. The inability of unlicensed traders to move large volumes of food commodities across borders with neighboring countries is expected to continue impacting market prices on imported food commodities, particularly from South Africa. Mozambican maize exports to Malawi are expected to be below-average following Malawi’s above-average 2019/20 season production.
    • Maize grain prices are expected to be above average through January 2021. Prices in the national reference market of Gorongosa are expected to be-on average-20 percent above the five-year average, but 10 percent below last year’s prices. In the southern zone, semi-arid areas of the center, and parts of the north, maize grain prices are likely to be roughly 55-77 percent above the five-year average. Imported rice prices are expected to remain above the five-year average over the next three months. Maize meal prices are anticipated to remain stable.
    • The availability of wild foods is expected to be below average in semiarid areas of the south and central regions throughout the scenario period due to drought conditions.
    • Livestock body conditions are expected to be average in the northern and central regions where near average water and pasture remain available. However, in the southern regions, livestock body conditions are currently average but are expected to worsen until the start of the rainy season in October/November, in particular among households without water sources near homesteads who will need to migrate longer distances in search of pasture and water.
    • Livestock prices in the central and northern regions are expected to remain average to slightly above average as households hold onto their animals to increase herd sizes. In the south, livestock prices are expected to be slightly below-average due to poor body conditions and increased supply from household livestock sales for market purchases.
    • Second season production in southern and central semiarid areas is expected to be 25 percent below the five-year average due to below-average rainfall in March and April impacting the residual soil moisture needed through September. In the central and northern regions affected by floods, households with access to seeds replanted after the floods and harvest is ongoing and expected to continue through June/July.
    • From October 2020 to January 2021, as the new season starts, pests are anticipated at typical levels.
    • Insecurity is expected to persist in parts of Cabo Delgado and an increased number of households are likely to be displaced during the projection period. In the short term, a few households are relying on support from relatives in more secure areas, but this is not expected to last at current levels throughout the projection period due to a lack of support capacity. Households that lose support are expected to rely on humanitarian food assistance. 
    • The WFP has put forward a likely and funded initial plan for May 2020 to March 2021 which aims to nationally cover 197,315 people in June 2020 and up to 513,755 people by March 2021. However, adjustments are likely to take place as more resources are mobilized. Other humanitarian organizations are planning to initiate assistance, primarily focusing on needs outlined in the most recent SETSAN findings report but are in the process of mobilizing resources. Humanitarian assistance is likely to be focused on food assistance, treatment of malnutrition, WASH activities, and educating communities on COVID-19 safety and treatment.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September, the majority of poor households throughout the country will most likely face None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, as they rely on their own production for food. However, in the semiarid southern and parts of central areas, northeastern Cabo Delgado, very poor and poor households will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households in semiarid southern Mozambique will likely not have enough income to meet their minimum food needs due to above-average local market prices and limited labor opportunities. Very poor and poor households will be forced to continue engaging in unsustainable coping to meet their basic food needs or mitigate the size of consumption gaps, including reducing the frequency and quantity of meals, withdrawing children from school, and consuming seed stocks. Households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely sell more animals than normal and consume wild foods. In the semiarid areas of the central region, primarily the southern part of Tete Province, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will continue as poor households spend their income on meeting their minimum food needs. Households are expected to prematurely intensify coping that are usually employed during the height of the lean season, including forgoing expenditures on non-food items and selling more charcoal and firewood for income for market food purchases. In northeastern Cabo Delgado, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will persist and likely expand as insecurity continues. An increasing number of displaced households are anticipated and due to a loss of livelihood and income earning opportunities, expected to depend on emergency humanitarian food assistance. A few households have the support of relatives located in safer areas in the short term, but this support is not expected to last due to a lack of support capacity. Following an end to familial support, displaced households will likely need humanitarian support as they too begin facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in urban and peri-urban areas, the current area classification is most likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, the most vulnerable households who have been unable to earn their monthly, weekly or even daily income, and have few income generation alternatives are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from June to September.

    From October 2020 to January 2021, southern Tete province, southern and northern Manica province, and southern Mozambique are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. With the start of the lean season in October poor households will intensify coping strategies such as reducing the frequency and quantity of foods due to income shortages, and excessively consuming wild foods. Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to increase with the start of the rainy season in October/November, but income is expected to be below average in the southern and central semiarid areas. The onset of the rains will provide a variety of wild and seasonal foods that will support increased consumption among poor households until green food becomes available in March 2021. However, a greater number of poor and very poor households are expected to continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. It is likely that the populations most at risk of acute food insecurity, such as the elderly, widows, and/or children headed households, will have limited opportunities to engage in income-earning activities due to labor constraints, increased competition, and a lack of labor opportunities from middle and better-off households impacted by the drought and COVID-19 containment measures. This population could experience larger gaps in their basic food needs and face more severe outcomes in the absence of assistance. In northeastern Cabo Delgado, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist and worsen as the conflict intensifies and the number of displaced people who have lost access to their livelihoods and income earning opportunities increase. In urban and peri-urban areas, it is anticipated that it will take longer than the scenario period for income and business activity to return to pre-COVID-19 levels following extended government restrictions. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely continue, particularly among the most vulnerable poor households who will require extra support to recover.


    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Intensification of pests including the fall armyworm (FAW) 

    This will likely reduce crop yields and food availability in the 2020/2021 season. A loss in productions would impact the duration of food reserves. For the poorest households this may lead to early food deficits in 2021. The pest infestation will depend on the progress of the season. Suppressed rainfall usually increases the intensification of pest damage from fall armyworm (FAW), grasshoppers, stalk borer, leaf miner, and rodents. The area classifications will likely remain the same but there would be an estimated 5 to 10 percent in the number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    National (particularly in central and northern Cabo Delgado, but also along the coast, and the Lower Zambezi and Limpopo rivers)

    Moderate to Severe flooding

    Severe flooding in January 2021 would negatively affect poor households located in the major river basins, particularly in the northern regions, but also along the coast, and the Lower Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. Impacted households would likely need humanitarian food assistance for at least three to four months until the post-flood crops are harvested in April/May 2021. The area classifications will likely remain the same but there would be an estimated 5 to 10 percent in the number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    More severe measures to contain COVID-19 (under Phase 3) 

    More severe restrictions will likely increase the number of vulnerable people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and their dependence on support from better-off family and friends, along with HFA. 



    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Mozambique seasonal calendar

In the north, land preparation is from September to November. Planting is from November to Fe

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Water Requirements Satisfaction Index, as of May 10, 2020 (WRSI). Shows failure  <50 % WRSI in southern Mozambique

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 2. Gorongoza maize grain prices and projections (MZN/kg). 2020/21 prices are expected to steadily increase and remain,

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on MASA/SIMA data

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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