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Assistance needs seasonally peaking as conflict intensifies in the Far North

  • Key Message Update
  • Cameroon
  • April 2024
Assistance needs seasonally peaking as conflict intensifies in the Far North

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The impacts of conflict and insecurity, exacerbated by elevated food prices, are expected to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the Far North through September. Conflict levels are rising as Islamist groups carry out increasing attacks on civilians and government forces. According to ACLED, there were 60 incidents and 47 deaths recorded in March, twice the number recorded during the same period in 2023. According to the IOM, nearly 520 people were internally displaced in the Mokolo district (Mayo-Tsanaga division) during the first two weeks of April. Most attacks occurred in Logone et Chari, Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Moskota, and Mayo-Tsanaga. Off-season sorghum and maize are available in markets though prices remain historically high. Until the main harvest in September, many households will have to purchase most of their food at markets, having no carryover stocks from the 2023 main season due to another year of below-average harvests. Many households will be unable to mitigate widening food consumption gaps and increasingly use coping strategies such as skipping meals, selling any remaining productive assets, or begging.
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Momo, Menchum, and Lebialem divisions in the Northwest (NW) and Southwest (SW) through September. Limited improvements to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are anticipated in July in areas of the NW and SW with lower conflict levels as the harvest arrives. However, these are expected to be below average for the eight consecutive year. In contrast to the Far North, the number of incidents and fatalities resulting from clashes between Separatists and government forces in the Northwest and Southwest regions decreased by about 57 percent and 53 percent, respectively, in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. However, overall conflict remains high, resulting in new population displacements and significantly disrupting local livelihoods. Most households are currently purchasing nearly all their food in advance of the harvest, and historically, high food prices are constraining food access. FEWS NET's routine monitoring indicates the widespread use of unsustainable coping strategies, such as cutting non-food expenses (health and education), buying food on credit, and reducing food portions.
    • Staple food prices were stable overall during the first quarter of 2024 but remained historically high and above last year’s levels. High prices are mainly associated with conflict-related supply disruptions and fuel and transportation cost increases. Nevertheless, data collected by FEWS NET suggests that the recent fuel price hike in February has not yet significantly affected food prices. Slight increases in the prices of some staple foods observed in March and April have likely been due to increased demand during Ramadan celebrations. Elevated prices continue limiting household purchasing power and access to food, especially since most households currently purchase most of their food at markets at this time of year. In March and April, imported rice prices in Yaounde and Douala rose by 8-12 percent above the same time last year and were, on average, 30-38 percent higher than the previous five-year average. 
    • In mid-April, the prices of maize in the Southwest region were 17-27 percent higher compared to last year. Similarly, during the same period, bean prices were 47-83 percent and 17-27 percent higher than last year in the Northwest and Southwest regions due to a prolonged dry spell in March and April 2023 that led to localized production deficits. Despite improving market supplies due to off-season harvests in the Far North, sorghum and maize prices continued to rise. The prices of sorghum and maize increased by 6-10 percent in Kaele, Maroua, and Mora markets between March and April and were, on average, 17 percent higher than last year. Despite the government's recent extension of the ban on grain exports, export demand from Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic remains high and continues to drive up prices, especially in border markets in the northern zone.
    • In the Mberé division of the Adamawa region and the Kadey and Lom-et-Djerem divisions of the East region, households are expected to continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Both the Central African refugees and the host community households in these divisions are experiencing low incomes compared to high staple food prices. This is a result of increased competition over jobs and natural resources. Although household food supplies are expected to improve as dry harvesting commences in July, the anticipated below-average production and incomes for refugees and poor host community households will likely result in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persisting.
    • Area-level outcomes are also assessed to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in Yaoundé and Douala due to the impact of unusually high prices of food and non-food commodities. As a result, many poor urban households are likely to reduce meal portions and frequencies and expenses for non-food needs. In the rest of the country, where there is no conflict or insecurity, poor households are expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity until the harvest season. This is due to near-average incomes from crop and livestock sales and seasonal labor opportunities, which are expected to enhance household purchasing power despite high food prices.
    • Across the country, food assistance needs are expected to increase and peak annually around May/June, coinciding with the lean season in the southern zone. Humanitarian food distributions will continue to be provided to the most vulnerable populations, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, refugees, and host communities. The Food Security Cluster has targeted approximately 350,886 people in the Northwest and Southwest regions to receive in-kind and cash-based assistance in 2024. This assistance will cover at least 30 percent of their daily calorie needs. While planned humanitarian food assistance is expected to mitigate household kilocalorie deficits for targeted households through the lean season,  FEWS NET assumes that assistance is unlikely to reach 25 percent of the total population at the divisional or regional level. Humanitarian activities across the country continue to be limited by funding and insecurity.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Cameroon Key Message Update April 2024: Assistance needs seasonally peaking as conflict intensifies in the Far North, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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