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Food insecurity levels remain high, particularly in conflict zones

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • February - September 2024
Food insecurity levels remain high, particularly in conflict zones

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Outlook by Country
  • Key Messages
    • The March 2024 PREGEC meeting estimates the final cereal production for 2023/24 in the Sahel and West Africa at 77,064,092 metric tons, a slight decrease of 0.6 percent compared to last year but an increase of 4 percent compared to the five-year average. The most significant production declines were recorded in the Liptako Gourma area and the Lake Chad basin, particularly in Niger (-5.5 percent), Nigeria (-5.7 percent), and Chad (-7.2 percent), attributed to insecurity and armed conflicts reducing access to fields and preventing some producers from harvesting. The off-season campaign continues in several areas of the Sahel Region and is characterized by good availability of horticultural products in rural and urban markets.
    • In the Gulf of Guinea countries, the late February/early March period is marked by the onset of the rainy season in the bimodal zone, with low rainfall observed in certain areas of Nigeria and Cameroon. The seasonal forecasts from regional centers (AGRHYMET, ACMAD) project normal to above-average rainfall from March to June 2024, covering the bimodal zone spanning from Nigeria to southeastern Ghana, as well as the coastal areas of western Liberia and southern Guinea. In the coastal region of Côte d'Ivoire and the southeastern parts of Liberia and southwestern Ghana, rainfall accumulations are forecasted to be below average for the projection period. The available NOAA forecasts for the Sahel suggest normal to above-normal rainfall in 2024. These rainfall conditions are favorable for an average or above-average agricultural campaign for 2024/25. 
    • From January to February 2024, the prices of staple foods exhibited varied trends, with stable or decreasing prices in some countries due to post-harvest trends, contrasting with increases in areas experiencing deficits. Despite the lifting of ECOWAS sanctions on Niger, prices have remained high due to production declines. Factors such as below-average supplies, high production and transportation costs, insecurity, and trade restrictions have contributed to maintaining price levels significantly higher than the five-year average in the Sahel Region. Meanwhile, strong demand, along with high global prices and transaction costs, have driven increased prices in coastal countries including Cameroon and Togo. In Nigeria, annual inflation has reached a new record high, fueled by currency depreciation and the removal of fuel subsidies, resulting in a continuous increase in staple food prices. Prices are expected to increase in the coming months and remain above average throughout the region until the end of the lean season. 
    • The majority of areas will remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity until September 2024. In areas affected by civil insecurity and currently experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, notably in provinces such as Kossi, Sourou, Yatenga, Séno, Sanmatenga, northern Bam, northern Namentenga, Komondjari, Gourma Tapoa, and Kompienga in Burkina Faso; the north and west of Tahoua and Tillabéry regions in Niger; the regions of Kanem, Bar el Gazel, Borkou, Tibesti, Ennedi Est and Ouest, Wadi Fira, Ouaddaï, and Sila in Chad; the southern region of Gao in Mali; Borno State, as well as portions of Yobe, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, and Plateau in Nigeria; and in the Far North of Cameroon, this situation is expected to persist until May 2024. From June to September, the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will extend to other provinces in Burkina Faso (Bam, Gnagna, Koulpelogo), the Hadjer Lamis Region in Chad and other LGAs in the aforementioned states, and from Niger to Nigeria. In the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will see a slight improvement from June/July due to new harvests that will allow households to transition to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 
    • The Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes currently observed in the provinces of Lorum, Soum, Oudalan, and Yagha in Burkina Faso, as well as in the inaccessible LGAs of the northeast states of Nigeria (Abadam, Guzamala, Marte, Bama), and in the Menaka Region in Mali will persist until September due to limited household food stocks and restricted access to markets and humanitarian aid. From June, this level of food insecurity will extend to the Séno Province, currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), in the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso. As for the Djibo municipality in Burkina Faso that has been under blockade for nearly two years, FEWS NET estimates in March 2024 that the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) during this projection period (February to September 2024) is low. This assessment is based on the higher vegetable production around the Djibo dam compared to last year, the increased security radius around the city allowing households to gather more wild foods, and the rise in remittances to Djibo. However, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) remains the most likely scenario, given the depletion of most sources of income and persistent consumption gaps. These outcomes will worsen during the lean season, with an expansion of areas in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) across the northern part of the country, as well as an increase in populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the most inaccessible areas. 

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    West Africa Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET


    Outlook by Country

    Burkina Faso 

    • The security situation remains worrying in inaccessible municipalities in the north. However, households benefit from a wider security radius compared to last year, allowing access to marginal income opportunities such as collecting and selling firewood, selling water, engaging in vegetable production, and gold panning. These municipalities have also benefited from escorted supplies over the past three months, and food aid has also been strengthened since December. This has improved food availability and consumption and reduced the number of people exposed to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) conditions. However, IDPs and poor host households continue to limit the number of meals and quantities consumed on a daily basis, exposing them to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). In the absence of humanitarian aid planning over the coming months, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are most likely between March and September.

    • In the municipality of Djibo, although key informants report an increase in remittances and vegetable crops compared to last year, food and income from these activities remain well below what is necessary to sustain lives and livelihoods. Thus, the majority of the population remains dependent on food aid provided by helicopters or intermittent military convoys for the majority of their food needs. Although key informants indicate a slight recovery in petty trade when convoys arrive in the city, the majority of livelihood activities remain minimal. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected until September.

    • At a national level, the market for agricultural products remains characterized by a disruption of internal flows. The persistence of security risks on certain road axes, although reduced compared to 2023, makes it difficult to access certain production areas and transfer agricultural products to consumption zones. Overall, staple food price levels are similar to those of the same period last year but remain above the five-year average. Across the country, prices are expected to move above their seasonal averages between March and September, putting pressure on the purchasing power of poor households. 

    • FEWS NET has determined that the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) during this projection period (February to September 2024) is low, based on higher vegetable production around the Djibo dam compared to last year, the expansion of the security radius around the city allowing households to collect more wild foods, the establishment of small supply chains into the city by traders, and increased remittances to Djibo. Thus, in the event of disruption to humanitarian food aid, the probability of the population experiencing extreme food consumption gaps before food aid reaches Djibo is low. However, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain the most likely scenario, given the depletion of most sources of income and persistent consumption gaps. These outcomes will worsen during the lean season, with an expansion of areas in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) across the northern part of the country, as well as an increase in populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the most inaccessible areas. 

    For more information, including on events that could change the scenario, see the Food Security Outlook report for Burkina Faso from February to September 2024.

    Cameroon

    • In February 2024, the government further reduced fuel subsidies which led to increases in petrol and diesel prices by an average of 15 percent. This is in addition to the previous 16 to 25 percent increase that occurred in February 2023. The recent fuel price hike is expected to increase the prices of food and essential non-food commodities even further. Poor urban and internally displaced households spend a significant portion of their income on food and are expected to be the most impacted by additional price increases. According to the National Institute of Statistics (INS), annual inflation in Cameroon reached 7.7 percent in December 2023 after five consecutive months of increases. Inflation therefore significantly exceeds the 3 percent target set by the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). However, INS data suggests that food inflation decreased from 12.9 percent in 2022 to around 11.6 percent by November 2023. Prices of most staple foods remain higher than last year's and the five-year average; however, this can also be attributed to conflict-induced crop production declines, insecurity, high transportation costs, and global price dynamics.

    • The impact of conflict and insecurity, exacerbated by high food prices, is expected to drive widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during the lean season in most of the Northwest and Southwest regions and some parts of the Far North Region. Staple food prices are currently trending at historically high levels in these areas and are projected to continue rising. Households are already market dependent due to the premature depletion of household stocks, and will therefore continue to face challenges in meeting their minimum food needs. Income-earning opportunities are limited and coping capacities have been eroded by years of conflict and insecurity. As a result, households are unable to mitigate the widening food consumption gaps they face and food aid needs are anticipated to peak annually around May/June. 

    • Conflict levels are projected to remain high in the Northwest and Southwest regions and continue to disrupt households' access to food and income sources, maintaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) area-level outcomes until at least July. During peak labor season from March to May, earnings are anticipated to be below average due to reductions in the total area cultivated. With high food prices, households will likely resort to selling their remaining assets for cash, buying food on credit, or begging. Some poor households in remote zones in Lebialem, Menchum, and Momo, which have already exhausted their coping capacity, will face widening food consumption gaps. As a result, a small proportion are expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the lean season. Humanitarian aid will likely remain insufficient due to funding shortfalls and humanitarian access challenges. From July through September, household food availability is expected to improve, supported by the dry harvesting season. Even so, outcomes will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to limited harvests, likely to only support minimally adequate food consumption.

    • The number of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the Logone-et-Chari, Mayo-Sava, and Mayo-Tsanaga divisions is expected to increase with the lean season between June and August. ACLED data shows that the number of conflict events and fatalities caused by ISWAP in these areas have increased markedly since April of 2023. In January, over 1,000 people were displaced from the Mokolo and Mora districts in the Mayo-Tsanaga and Mayo-Sava divisions (IOM). Many of them have probably experienced multiple displacements due to insecurity and have limited resources to cope with any additional shocks. While some poor households in the area will obtain a limited supply of own-produced food supplies and income from crop sales and wage labor during the off-season harvests in March and April, many are expected to be unable to meet their minimum food needs throughout the projection period. As the lean season progresses, households will probably increase their consumption of wild foods and intensify the selling of firewood, charcoal, and handicrafts in an attempt to mitigate their widening food consumption gaps. 

    For more information, including on events that could change the scenario, see the Food Security Outlook report for Cameroon from February to September 2024.

     

    Mali 

    • Since December, the continuing ISGS attacks in the Ménaka Region, combined with the imposition of blockades by the armed groups of the CSP, have led to significant population displacements and have worsened the isolation of the region. According to the December 2023 population movement report, more than 65 percent of the population of Ménaka is displaced and concentrated around the towns of Andéramboukane and Ménaka. Humanitarian access is poor and subject to disruption from security threats along the main road, which significantly disrupts poor households' access to a critical food source. Given the extensive looting of livestock, very high food prices, and limited opportunities for income-generating activities, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely throughout the period from February to September, with a small proportion of the population in Famine (IPC Phase 5), particularly in the inaccessible areas of Ménaka during the lean season.

    • In the south of Gao and Mopti, also affected by a high level of insecurity, a probable deterioration in food insecurity from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected from May onwards. Despite facing significant challenges such as a sharp decline in livelihoods and increasing food prices, these areas retain better access to markets and humanitarian assistance, resulting in relatively lower population displacement compared to Ménaka. This facilitates a certain level of income-earning activity, albeit lower than the average. 

    • Despite average food supplies at a national level due to cereal production and overall average imports, staple food prices remain above average. In the center and north of the country, disruptions in trade flows and sometimes the imposition of blockades on the main roads reduce food supplies and lead to a more pronounced rise in average prices, which limits poor households' access to food.

    • Although overall livestock conditions are favorable in the country, major disruptions to herd transhumance movements in the Ménaka, Gao, and Kidal regions will lead to an early deterioration in livestock conditions (pastures and watering points) in accessible areas. The food difficulties expected for livestock in these hosting areas will reduce animal production and the incomes of breeders, potentially leading to higher livestock mortalities than the average.

    For more information, including on events that could change the scenario, see the Food Security Outlook report for Mali from February to September 2024.

     

    Niger 

    • The sustained rise in food prices is accelerating due to a combination of agroclimatic, security, and sociopolitical factors disrupting trade circuits. Poor households in Tillabéry and Tahoua regions not only grapple with depleted cereal reserves but also confront limited opportunities for labor sales, resulting in meager income. Consequently, households have resorted to negative coping strategies and are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Households in the regions of Diffa and Maradi have moved to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) due to monthly distribution of food aid to the majority of targeted individuals.

    • The sociopolitical situation is changing significantly with the announced withdrawal of ECOWAS, motivated by economic and financial sanctions on Niger. This decision provides a new direction to the negotiations between Niger and ECOWAS, as evidenced by the lifting of sanctions that were in place for seven months during the extraordinary session of the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS held in Abuja on February 24, 2024. Nevertheless, the effects of the sanctions on inflation, especially food products, are expected to continue impacting the country's economy and access to food for poor households in the coming months. 

    • Food markets are supplied due to internal flows and imports that follow long circuits, the effects of which lead to changes in the structure of food prices. This change is also observed in livestock markets, where export channels to other countries increasingly pass through the Burkina Faso corridor. Even with trade sanctions lifted and borders reopening, the enduring impacts of these alternative trade routes will continue to inflate transaction costs and consumer prices for food items, surging to unprecedented levels in the past five years.

    • The food aid programs, which experienced a slowdown in implementation during the months following the military coup, have resumed in the regions of Diffa and Maradi. This is because the sanctions provide exemptions for humanitarian actions, particularly the procurement of food products and the funding of food insecurity response plans by humanitarian organizations. This had made it possible to provide food aid covering at least 60 percent of the food needs of the targeted populations. In these areas, not only have humanitarian organizations been able to access food and financial stocks, but the security conditions are also conducive to humanitarian access for interventions benefiting the targeted populations.

    For more information, including on events that could change the scenario, see the Food Security Outlook report for Niger from February to September 2024.

     

    Nigeria 

    • The main season harvests are underway throughout the country, seasonally improving food availability and access for millions of households as from October. However, the cumulative effects of increased levels of violence and abductions targeting civilians, prolonged drought periods during the agricultural season in the north, moderate floods in coastal areas, and the escalation of the macroeconomic crisis have had a negative impact on agricultural production. Cereal production in the surplus areas of the north is expected to be lower than last year and the average. This is likely to limit the extent of seasonal improvements in food access, resulting in unusually high prices for basic food items and driving high food assistance needs in the northeast and northwest.

    • In the northeast, internal conflicts between insurgent groups, high levels of abductions, and an increase in crime continue to displace households towards garrison towns and restrict access to cultivated lands during the planting season. Even though most households benefit from the increased harvest availability, the size of the plots is small, and the majority of households will remain partially reliant on purchases to meet their food needs during the harvest period. However, limited income-generating opportunities and a deterioration in purchasing power restrict financial access to food, leading to consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In inaccessible areas, especially in the LGAs of Bama, Marte, Guzamala, and Abadam, households will experience limited mobility, challenging access to functional markets, limited or non-existent harvests, and depleted coping capacity. They are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes until May 2024.

    • Despite high food assistance needs, humanitarian presence remains limited in the northwest and central-north regions. Banditry and ransom kidnappings have increased from June to September, disrupting livelihoods, limiting mobility, and causing population displacement in the most-affected areas. While households engaged in cultivation will experience a temporary improvement in food access with the seasonal harvests from October to December, most poor households were unable to cultivate due to low income opportunities. Market disruptions and high prices have been exacerbated by the decline in cross-border trade activities with the Republic of Niger. Households affected by the conflict are experiencing deficits in food consumption and are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until May 2024. A subset of households most affected by the conflict, unable to engage in cultivation, relies on wild foods, bartering, and begging to access food and is likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • Economic conditions have deteriorated significantly in Nigeria. The value of the Nigerian Naira (NGN) is rapidly declining in the open market, reaching a record low of 1,200 NGN/USD at exchange bureaus in late October. Inflation reached 26.8 percent in September 2023, the highest since 2005. Foreign reserves continue to decline, and national oil production remains well below the OPEC+ daily quota. The prices of both imported and domestic goods remain unusually high due to elevated transportation costs associated with the rise in fuel prices following the removal of fuel subsidies. In September, in the Maiduguri LGA, the prices of maize and millet were over 100 percent higher than in September 2022. As a result of these factors, household purchasing power has declined, leading to reduced access to food for millions of households that are market dependent to meet their food needs.

    Chad 

    • The influx of refugees and returnees continues to put pressure on sources of food and income. There is strong competition for the few existing opportunities. An excess of labor supply has led to decreased household incomes, thereby restricting ability to afford essential food items due to unusual price escalations. Poor households face food consumption deficits, despite developing negative coping strategies and social solidarity practices, including meal sharing, and are mainly dependent on food aid. As a result, poor host households, refugees, and returnees from Assoungha and Kimiti are in Crisis!  (IPC Phase 3!). In the absence of food aid, these populations would be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • In the other departments of Ouaddai and Sila, as well as the provinces of Wadi Fira and Eastern Ennedi, households are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In Lac, the depletion of household stocks and low incomes due to the deterioration of livelihoods limit their access to markets. Host households and IDPs face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In the Western Sahel and the Saharan region, atypical increases in food prices due to disruptions in the flow of products imported from Libya are limiting access to markets for poor households which are therefore in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    • The atypical rise in food prices is due to the fall in market supply driven by local cereal production deficits and high transport costs: the price of millet has increased over 45 percent compared with the five-year average. The escalation of fuel prices is a pivotal factor influencing the cost of food products and has not only disrupted internal flows among cereal markets but also hindered the influx of imported goods, notably from Cameroon (the sole remaining source of inbound supplies). As a result, fuel shortages and rising fuel prices have led to high transport costs, impacting the supply and price of local and imported food products. 

    • Food aid is the main source of nourishment for Sudanese refugees and Chadian returnees. The continuing influx of these refugees into the provinces of Ouaddai, Sila, and Wadi Fira is increasing the need for emergency food aid and will remain high during the lean season. However, current food aid in kind and in the form of cash transfers is unable to cover the number of people in need. Furthermore, the monthly ration is inadequate and only covers the needs of beneficiaries for a period of two to three weeks.

    • Faced with a severe, early pastoral lean season, most transhumant herders moved into Sudanian localities in search of rainfed crop residues, residual natural pastures, and watering holes. In addition, regular clashes are noted in the area which are linked to the massive presence of transhumant herders in the area since January 2024, whose animals are causing major damage to agricultural fields. The food consumption of refugees, returnees, and host households continues to be closely monitored.

     

    Countries monitored remotely1

    Mauritania

    • In February, agricultural and agropastoral area households’ food stocks and animal products remain widely available, allowing the majority of households to cover their food consumption needs and to be in a Minimal (IPC Phase 1) situation. However, some poor households whose food stocks are beginning to deplete are increasingly relying on markets for their food, thus experiencing a Stressed (IPC Phase 2) situation. In particular, in the Hodh El Chargui Region, the massive arrival of Malian refugees in recent months (due to the deteriorating security situation in Mali) is putting pressure on the local resources of the area, already weakened by the rainfall deficit of 2023. Needs are expected to increase due to increasing pressure on food supplies. The region is expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) starting with the onset of the lean season in June.

    • As of January 31, 2024, UNHCR has registered 71,301 refugees outside of the camp in the Hodh El Chargui Region, including 14,410 new arrivals in the month of January 2024 alone. While most of the arrivals are herders who have brought their livestock and have been able to access daily work opportunities, more than a third have reported relying on the charity of the host population, according to a survey by the IOM. This situation is also likely to worsen in the coming months. For arrivals registered at the Mbera camp, WFP has just received a 5 million USD donation as part of an agreement with USAID which is expected to support programs within the camp and benefit Malian refugees,.

    • Markets are well-supplied with imported and local products. However, prices of local agricultural products are rising everywhere compared to the previous month due to a slight tightening of market supply as stocks begin to diminish. Prices of imported food items, notably sugar, vegetable oil, rice, and pasta, are slightly decreasing after experiencing a significant increase during the last twenty days of January. However, it should be noted that the prices of imported vegetables have increased since January 2024 due to the new pricing of these products. Livestock markets are also well-stocked this month. Although prices are down in February compared to last month due to a slowdown in urban demand, they are still higher than those for the same period in 2023. For example, at the Nouakchott market, the average price of sheep has decreased by about 200 MRU, and at the Adel Bagrou market, the decrease is about 300 MRU compared to last month.

    For more information, including on events that could change the scenario, see the remote monitoring report for Mauritania from February to September 2024.

     

    Central African Republic 

    • The dry season persists in February in all the country's agro-ecological zones. The poorest households, with depleted food reserves and current reliance on markets where prices remain high, are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In areas where security is precarious, particularly in Haute-Kotto and Haut-Mbomou, households are facing a Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to inadequate agricultural production and insecurity, which deprives households of their usual means of livelihood. In relatively calm areas, the vast majority of households still have sufficient food reserves to ensure they experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    • Food commodity prices remain high due to the increasing demand from households nearing the lean season, as well as shortages and disruptions in fuel supply. The increase in prices is most pronounced in the areas most affected by the conflict. For instance, rice and cassava prices in Obo are 79 and 48 percent higher than last year's average, and 43 and 29 percent higher than the five-year average, respectively.

    • Conflicts and combat-related deaths have somewhat stabilized in 2023. However, the security situation remains precarious in certain localities (notably Ouham-Pendé, Haut-Mboumou, Vakaga, and Haute-Kotto), and cases of violence against civilians causing population displacement continue to be recorded. As of December 31, 2023, the IOM has recorded 470,406 IDPs,  many of whom are newly displaced due to flooding and armed group activities, as well as victims of conflicts related to transhumance. However, despite ongoing instability in certain areas, the return of IDPs to their places of origin continues, with over 237,900 returns during 2023.

    To learn more, including events that could change the scenario see the remote monitoring report for CAR from February to September 2024.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. West Africa Food Security Outlook February - September 2024: Food insecurity levels remain high, particularly in conflict zones, 2024.

    1

    With remote monitoring, an analyst usually works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of data partners. Compared to the countries above where FEWS NET has a local office, reports on countries monitored remotely may be less detailed.

    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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