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As the lean season peaks, historically high prices limiting household food access

  • Key Message Update
  • Cameroon
  • March 2024
As the lean season peaks, historically high prices limiting household food access

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing and are expected to persist throughout June across the Northwest and Southwest regions. Due to consecutive years of conflict-induced low harvests, most household stocks of own-produced crops have been prematurely depleted. Households must purchase most of their food at the market earlier in the season than normal. Prices of many key commodities remain historically high, and many households can only consume a minimally adequate diet by becoming further indebted, skipping meals, begging for food, and sending their children elsewhere to eat. By July or August, most households in the Northwest and Southwest regions will transition from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The onset of the main season harvest is anticipated to improve household food supplies and incomes from crop sales. However, in areas most intensely affected by the conflict (Momo, Menchum, and Lebialem), Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist due to insufficient harvests. 
    • In the divisions of Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga, and Logone-et-Chari in the Far North, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through September. Following consecutive seasons of below-average cereal harvests caused by conflict and insecurity, household food access remains constrained, with many unable to meet their basic food needs from their own production as they had before the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) insurgency. As a result, households must purchase much of their basic grains at markets due to the early depletion of cereal stocks. Meanwhile, cereal prices remain high in all markets in the Far North region and have also risen due to increased demand in the lead-up to Ramadan. FEWS NET price monitoring data for March shows that maize and sorghum prices increased between 3-6 percent in key markets compared to February, 12 percent compared to 2023, and 40 to 60 percent compared to the five-year average. To cope with high prices, many households are reducing meal portions and frequencies, becoming further indebted, and selling remaining livestock.  
    • The divisions hosting the most refugees from the Central African Republic, Mberé (Adamawa) and Kadey and Lom et Djerem (East), are expected to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until September 2024. The presence of the refugees has led to increased demand for essential food and nonfood commodities. Poor host households now have difficulties accessing food and other basic needs as the prices have risen even further amid the ongoing lean season. Additionally, incomes from farm and nonfarm income sources have declined due to the oversupply of labor with reduced wages (by about a third) compared to normal. With a lack of start-up capital to engage in petty trading and firewood and charcoal sales, many refugee and host households struggle to afford essential non-food items, only able to meet their minimum food needs. Some very poor (mostly refugee) households are likely experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, resorting to removing children from school and consuming seed stocks for the 2024 cropping season to mitigate their consumption gaps.
    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist in Yaoundé and Douala, where most households purchase all their food from markets. Market food supplies from the surplus-producing areas of the country are seasonally declining, and prices have increased accordingly. Significantly above-average staple food prices will continue to force poor households, IDPs, and refugees to reduce meal portions and frequencies and decrease expenses on non-food needs such as medical care and education. In the rest of the secure areas of the country, households are expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes through September 2024. Despite high food prices, most poor households in conflict-free zones are expected to sustain normal access to food and essential non-food needs without resorting to unsustainable coping strategies due to the average availability of their own production and income from typical sources.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Cameroon Key Message Update March 2024: As the lean season peaks, historically high prices limiting household food access, 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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