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Persisting high levels of food insecurity in conflict areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • West Africa
  • March - September 2020
Persisting high levels of food insecurity in conflict areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook by Country
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Off-season harvests continue to improve food availability and household incomes except in conflict areas where they are lower than average. In the Liptako-Gourma area, continued insecurity continues to lead to an increase in IDPs, deterioration or even loss of livelihoods and pressure on the resources of the host populations. Limited access to certain areas such as northern Burkina Faso, western Niger and parts of northeastern Nigeria by humanitarians, compromises assistance to the population.

    • The low availability of pasture locally in the pastoral areas of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad is aggravated by insecurity, which greatly hampers livestock movements. Poor grazing conditions remains a concern in western Mauritania and northern Senegal for the third consecutive year, leading to increased pressure on resources in western Mali and an intensification of transhumant movements to Senegal by Mauritanian herds. In Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger, feed expenditures for livestock have increased significantly. This situation, in addition to insecurity and looting, is leading to livestock destocking by households in northern Burkina Faso.

    • Market supply remains stable at above-average levels with large carryover stocks. Demand remains below average, except in areas of deficit and insecurity. Markets remain disrupted in the Great Lake Chad basin, Tibesti region and Liptako-Gourma region. The closure of Nigeria's land borders continues to impede internal and regional trade, mainly with Niger, Cameroon, and Benin.

    • Prices of local staple foods are below average except in areas with deficits and/or impacted by insecurity and armed conflict. Supply will remain sufficient to meet demand, except in the areas mentioned above where the functioning of markets is atypical. In Nigeria, insecurity in the north-east will continue to restrict trade. Prices will rise seasonally from March onwards as household stocks are depleted. The closure of Nigeria's land borders will put pressure on demand for cereals from Niger to Benin and the central basin. Cereal prices will be below or near average but are expected to be above last year's levels in several regional markets.

    • Most of the region will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) until September 2020 and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for some. However, the persistence of insecurity and armed conflict in the region will continue to worsen household food security conditions. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will prevail until September in the Tillabéry region of Niger, the Centre-North and Sahel regions and the provinces of Loroum, Komondjari and Gnagna in Burkina Faso, the Western Sahel and Liptako Gourma in Mali, the eastern CAR and the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. Households in north-eastern Nigeria affected by the Boko Haram conflict continue to depend on humanitarian assistance for access to food and remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) particularly in Borno State and secondarily Yobe State. In adjacent areas that remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors, the food situation would be similar or worse.

    Outlook by Country


    • Most poor households in the country are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, with stocks from their own production enabling them to maintain a typical diet until March. They will experience a typical lean season while awaiting an estimated average harvest in July.Most poor households in the country are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity, with stocks from their own production enabling them to maintain a typical diet until March. They will experience a typical lean season while awaiting an estimated average harvest in July.
    • However, in departments with high concentrations of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or refugees (Ouest and Adamaoua regions) and in the districts of the Extrême-Nord affected by flooding and Boko Haram looting, deteriorating food access and income will push poor households to adopt Stressed (IPC Phase 2) coping strategies between February and May. Between June and September, the first harvests will contribute to increased food consumption in the Ouest and Adamaoua regions; however, in the Extrême-Nord, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will continue throughout the period.
    • In the conflict-ridden Northwest and Southwest regions, early depletion of household stocks from February, limited access to fields, and lower purchasing power in the face of high prices in urban centers will continue to expose disadvantaged households to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity between February and September. Continued conflict will result in a decline in household production and livelihoods for the fourth consecutive season.

    For more information, see the Cameroon Food Security Outlook for February to September 2020.


    • Cereal production is 25.5 percent above average, and availability of food on markets is average, despite security incidents affecting flows to central and northern areas. In addition, average to below-average cereal prices are enabling the majority of households to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
    • In the western Sahel region of Kayes, the pastoral lean season started early in February due to pasture deficits and atypical concentrations of livestock. Elsewhere, the pastoral lean season is expected to be typical overall, supporting average incomes for livestock herders thanks to average production and condition of animals.
    • Household access to cereals is generally average, due to average to above-average availability of own production (although low in some places), payments in kind, and average to below-average food prices in the main markets. Average to above-average terms of trade for goats/cereals are supporting average market access for livestock farming households.
    • An early lean season as a result of poor agricultural production in the western Sahel and Liptako Gourma, in addition to deteriorating livelihoods due to increased conflict and flooding, are leading poor households to make atypical use of labor and migration, reduce their non-food expenditure, and rely on humanitarian assistance or relatives to meet their food needs. As a result, they will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from February to April, and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from May to September 2020.

    For more information, see the Mali Food Security Outlook for February to September 2020.


    • Population displacement has increased as a result of significant deterioration in the security situation since the beginning of the year. Newly internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the regions of Tillabéri, Tahoua, Diffa and Maradi were estimated at 11,000 from January to February 2020.
    • The effects of localized droughts and flooding have led to agricultural deficits in some areas. However, good production of cash crops (groundnuts, sesame and cowpea) and ongoing horticultural production are providing average income and food opportunities, increasing access to food for the majority of agricultural and agropastoral households.
    • Markets are functioning with a sufficient supply of products for the low demand, which consists mainly of purchases from local consumers and livestock farmers. Prices have slightly increased, especially for staple foods (maize and sorghum), because of disruption to flows following the closure of the border and border insecurity.
    • In several pastoral areas, pasture availability is limited to small pasture areas that are insufficient to feed livestock. The cost of fodder, in addition to household food costs, will result in more sales of animals than usual. For poor households, food consumption needs will be covered but at the expense of strong pressure on livelihoods, and the area will move progressively into Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity in March, until at least July 2020.
    • Acute food insecurity is Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most of the country, although higher levels are observed in the northern areas of the Tillabéri region – which is in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) – and in the Diffa region, where food assistance is keeping households in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).

    For more information, see the Niger Food Security Outlook for February to September 2020.


    • Households that have been the worst affected by Boko Haram conflict in many parts of Borno, northern Adamawa, and southern Yobe states are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Households trapped in inaccessible areas are likely facing similar or worse outcomes relative to neighboring accessible areas. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity, including Famine (IPC Phase 5) are also possible in a worst-case scenario where conflict significantly restricts humanitarian access and household movement.
    • Internally displaced persons in camps across the three northeast states remain accessible to humanitarian actors and are mainly dependent on humanitarian food assistance and are engaged in atypical livelihoods activities such as petty trading, crafts, domestic work and construction labor work, which earns them a restricted income. Thus, they are only able to meet their basic food needs but are unable to afford non-food needs and are facing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes through at least May 2020.
    • The worst conflict affected households in the northwest – Sokoto, Zamfara, and Katsina states, and in the central zone of Nigeria – Plateau, Kaduna, Taraba, Niger, Benue and Nasarawa states who remain displaced are dependent on atypical livelihood activities. At least 20 percent are minimally able to meet food needs only and will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity through May 2020.  As pastoralists return to their bases during the growing season and near the start of the lean season, these worst affected households in the northwest will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between June and September.
    • Currently, households outside of conflict affected areas are consuming staple foods from their own production and are engaged in usual income earning opportunities and dry season cultivation. Pastoralists have normal access to pastoral resources and are selling livestock, that currently have good body conditions, normally to access food. Continued land border closures have led to favorable staple prices and market dependent households are accessing food normally. Thus, most households throughout the country will continue to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through September 2020.

    For more information, see the Nigeria Food Security Outlook for February to September 2020.


    • The resurgence of conflicts around Lac continues to trigger population movements. Since December 2019, nearly 24,000 displaced persons have been reported (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), February 2020). Displaced households and their hosts in Lac are expected to have minimally adequate food consumption and will be unable to buy non-essential food. As such, they will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    • Following the early depletion of stocks in the western Sahel (Bahr-el-Gazel and Kanem), households are dependent on markets for their food consumption. However, their access to markets is limited by low income levels. They will have reduced and minimally adequate food consumption. They will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from February to September 2020. Other provinces in the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity.
    • The cereal supply is boosted by the current maize and berbere harvests. The overall demand is below average, except for millet and maize in Lac. An increase in maize prices above the five-year average has been observed in Bol (64 percent), due to insecurity. There has been an increase in cattle prices in Abdi (56 percent) and Abéché (45 percent) due to increased exports to Sudan.
    • A further influx of approximately 17,000 people from the Sudanese province of Darfur was recorded in Ouaddaï as a result of ongoing inter-community violence in Western Darfur. These population movements have been observed since the end of 2019. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is currently transferring these persons to a camp being built 38 km from Abéché.

    For more information, see the Chad Food Security Outlook for February to September 2020.

    Remote Monitoring Countries[1]

    Burkina Faso

    • Livestock destocking is a strategy adopted by internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host households to escape looting by terrorist groups, or to address livestock feeding difficulties, or food and non-food needs. The pastoral lean season, which is expected to be more difficult than usual, will also have a negative impact on the terms of trade in accessible markets.
    • In the northern part of the country, markets along the borders with Mali and Niger are poorly supplied and no longer regularly held due to terrorist threats. Although cereal prices are slightly below average, early depletion of household stocks in February will lead to a higher-than-usual increase in market demand and prices may reach or exceed the seasonal average between February and September.
    • Security incidents will continue, leading to an increase in the number of IDPs and restricting the income of poor households, especially in the Centre-Nord, Sahel and Est regions. Ongoing and planned humanitarian assistance, especially in the provinces of Bam, Namentenga, Sanmatenga, Sum, Séno and Loroum, will place poor IDPs and host households in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) between February and September. However, in the provinces of Oudalan, Yagha, Komandjoari and Gnagna, there is insufficient assistance to prevent food consumption and livelihoods from deteriorating, and poor IDPs and households in these areas will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and September.

    For more information, see the Burkina Faso Remote Monitoring Update for February 2020


    • Despite the average or above-average incomes that poor households in the rain-fed area could derive from the sale of straw and seasonal migration remittances, the area will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and September, due to severe livelihood protection deficits, deteriorating consumption and high rates of acute malnutrition.
    • In the agropastoral area, where transhumance is taking place early, rising labor demand for herders will provide poor households that typically earn more than 50 percent of their income from this crucial income source with similar or rising incomes and access to markets, potentially placing them in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until June. This situation will continue through September, with increased availability of milk and wild products from July onwards.
    • Overall, the supply of staple foods and livestock feed to the markets is average and the additional production of flood-recession crops and inflows from Mali are expected to help maintain this satisfactory availability throughout the period. However, due to a longer pastoral season and falling livestock prices, wealthy households will be forced to sell more livestock to cover the costs of livestock feed and agricultural labor.  

    For more information, see the Mauritania Remote Monitoring Update for February 2020

    Central African Republic

    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) persists in conflict-affected areas, where household food stocks are expected to run out early, market functioning remains compromised and income-generating activities are often disrupted by the conflict. The lean season is expected to start in early March.
    • The security situation remains of great concern, with renewed conflict between armed groups and inter-communal conflicts expected to continue for the remainder of the dry season. Although part of the population previously displaced by the floods has returned to their homes, new cases of internally displaced persons (IDPs) occurred in January and February due to the conflict in Vakaga and Haute-Kotto. In addition, there have been numerous reports of field destruction due to transhumant movements during the dry season.
    • In February, commodity prices are 30-50 percent higher than in February 2019 in most key reference markets, which continues to limit the purchasing power of poor households. The main factors are localized losses in agricultural production, regular disruptions in food supply flows and market functioning, and illegal taxation. The situation is aggravated by a cassava disease originating in Kemo prefecture and fires during the dry season that destroyed houses and granaries.

    For more information, see the Central African Republic Remote Monitoring Update for February 2020


    [1] With remote monitoring, an analyst typically works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of partners for data. Compared to previous series of countries in which FEWS NET has a local office, reports on remote monitoring countries may offer less detail.


    Events that Might Change the Outlook
    ZoneEVENTImpact on food security outcomes
    Central Basin (Mali et Burkina Faso) Atypical institutional purchases between April and the lean season
    • Significant increase in demand

    • Rising local grain prices

    Northern Mali, Northeast Nigeria, Lake Chad Basin, Liptako Gourma region, Central African Republic, CameroonWorsening civil insecurity
    • Increase in the number of internally displaced persons and refugees in neighboring countries

    • Serious disruption of trade flows

    • Very low supply of local markets

    • Severe deterioration of household livelihoods

    • Reduced access to areas by humanitarians for assistance

    • Significant deterioration in household consumption

    East and Central Basin (Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali)Reopening of Nigeria's land borders
    • Revival of the demand for livestock allowing for an increase in prices, especially for cattle.

    • Increased income for pastoral households.

    • Reduced pressure from Niger on markets in the central basin for its cereal supplies, and recourse to Nigeria's usual markets.


    Figures West Africa seasonal calendar  In the North, Main season cultivation is from mid-May to mid-August. Main harvest is from mid-

    Figure 3


    Source: FEWS NET

    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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