The impact of COVID-19 is increasing the vulnerability of poor households to food insecurity
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Impact of COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic continues in Mali and is affecting all parts of the country, particularly Tombouctou, where the number of cases increased significantly during the month. As of 28 June 2020, the cumulative number of confirmed cases since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic in Mali was 2,147, with a fatality rate of 5.3 percent. The government’s heavy restrictions since April 2020, involving the closure of hotels and public spaces (bars, cultural facilities) and the reduction in working hours, all under a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, have reduced the country’s economic activity (handicrafts, transport, commerce and hospitality), especially in urban centers. These restrictions are the main cause of job losses for 50.4 percent of households in Bamako and 39.4 percent in rural areas (Mali National Institute of Statistics – INSTAT/World Bank Report, May 2020). In addition, according to the World Food Program (WFP) mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) project, the decline in migrant remittances from external countries to over two thirds of households (64.5 percent) has reduced the ability of households dependent on them (mainly in the western Sahel and Niger River Valley) to adequately meet their food and non-food needs. According to the INSTAT/World Bank survey, 53.3 percent of households are concerned about not having enough food to eat, due to lack of resources or money. This is followed by concerns for 45.6 percent of households about eating food of low quality. One in ten households (9.9 percent) has had physical experience of hunger. The main strategies undertaken by households to mitigate the impact of the crisis were as follows: 16.9 percent of households were selling assets, 10.2 percent were engaging in additional income-generating activities, 10.1 percent were mobilizing savings, and 9.7 percent of households were seeking assistance from friends or family. Despite the easing of restrictions, economic activities are being slow to regain average levels, both in Mali and in migrant host countries.
The closure of land and air borders between countries has reduced trade flows, even though these measures do not officially apply to the transport of freight/goods. In addition, the government has imposed a ban on the export of certain foodstuffs, limiting the level of export of local products and cancelling most orders from European countries for certain cash crops (livestock, fruit, handicrafts). The decline is mainly felt in food products (cereals, fruit) and much less in livestock (8 percent of export revenue).
Temporary job losses following the closure of companies and industrial units in migrant host countries due to COVID-19 are limiting capacities for remittances to countries of origin. According to mVAM in May 2020, around 65.4 percent of households are reporting a decline in income from migration, with a strong decline for over one third of households (35.8 percent).
Agropastoral production: The onset of rainfall is continuing. This is boosting the new agricultural growing season and improving livestock conditions. Cumulative rainfall as of 20 June is normal to excess throughout the country, except in parts of Gao, Tombouctou, Ménaka and Kidal. Harvests of off-season market garden crops have been completed and are considered average to good overall. For off-season cereals (rice, wheat), for which harvests are underway, production outlooks are average overall. This will improve the availability of these foods in the areas concerned. Flood recession crops (millet, sorghum, rice, cowpeas) are developing normally in the lake areas of Tombouctou and Mopti. The new agricultural growing season is getting underway with the transport of organic manure, field clearing, ploughing and sowing. These activities provide income and food opportunities for poor households in agricultural areas. However, continued insecurity in the Liptako-Gourma area will reduce production levels as a result of populations being unable to access their operations.
Improving livestock conditions thanks to the rainfall recorded are bringing the pastoral lean season to an end in Mali’s southern agricultural areas, as pastures and watering holes begin to replenish. The physical condition of livestock is average overall; hence the average level of livestock production. Herds are beginning to return to the usual concentration areas in the southern parts of the country, although slowly in the western Sahel where the pastoral lean season has been more difficult and where livestock conditions remain poor. Insecurity continues to disrupt herd movements in the central and northern parts of Mali. The animal health situation is stable overall, and the livestock vaccination campaign is ongoing with the support of humanitarian partners.
Fish production: There is the usual increase in catches thanks to the lifting of bans and to collective fishing in ponds. Catches are considered average overall, except in parts of the Niger Delta in Mopti, where disruptions are reported due to the insecurity in the area.
Markets and prices: Cereal supplies are sufficient overall, despite the decreased flow of imported foods (rice, pasta, oils, powdered milk) due to COVID-19 restrictions. Farmers’ habitual destocking to meet financial needs for the new growing season, off-season harvests, and the increasing relaxation of restrictive measures between countries are helping to increase market supply to average levels. Disruptions in flows are however observed, due to difficulties in population movement, particularly in border areas as a result of COVID-19, as well as persistent insecurity in the central and northern areas of the country.
At the end of May, the price of the main cereal crop in all markets in the regional capitals, compared with the five-year average, was higher in Kayes (+14 percent), Gao (+6 percent) and Kidal (+4 percent), and lower in Mopti (-18 percent), Sikasso and Ségou (-14 percent), Tombouctou (-13 percent) and Koulikoro (-9 percent). This price level is largely similar to or lower than last year’s level over the same period.
Livestock supply to markets is stable or reduced overall, due to COVID-19 measures which are limiting demand outside the country, and also due to the broadly normal pastoral lean season, which is not prompting atypical sales except in the western Sahel and in insecure areas. Livestock prices are average to above average in agricultural markets in the south of the country, but average to below average in the Mopti, Gao and Tombouctou regions for large ruminants, due to a decline in demand. This is reducing the income of pastoral households. At the end of May, the price of goats, the animal most frequently sold by poor households, was down against the five-year average in Gao (-6 percent) and Bourem (-5 percent), up in Douentza (+11 percent), Mopti (+28 percent), Goundam (+19 percent) and Ménaka (+25 percent), and similar to average in Gourma Rharous and Tombouctou. This is favorable to average to above-average pastoral income for wealthy households who still have animals, unlike poor households who are limited because of their much-reduced animal numbers due to high demand since the start of the crisis in 2012. Compared with the average, terms of trade are up in Tombouctou (+12 percent) and Ménaka (+24 percent), but down in Gao (-12 percent), Bourem (-7 percent) and Ansongo (-8 percent).
Access to food: Household access to food in this lean season remains a challenge for poor households in the Liptako-Gourma and western Sahel areas, which, in addition to early depletion of their stocks, are experiencing reduced incomes due to security disruptions and/or the decline in migrant remittances. Around 28 percent of households (mVAM May 2020) have experienced difficulties in accessing food during the month, mainly due to lower incomes and rising food prices (+19.8 percent). Staple food price trends remain favorable to household access to food. However, the overall decline in incomes, especially in remittances for which a sharp decrease is observed by 37.8 percent of households, is adversely affecting the ability of households to access markets.
Population movements: The return of workers to their home areas continues in Mali’s agricultural regions. Disruptions to their movements in and out of neighboring countries have been reported, as a result of restrictions due to COVID-19. The gradual lifting of lockdowns has enabled a resumption of movement. In the central and northern parts of the country, persistent security incidents continue to generate unusual movements of people in search of more secure areas. By the end of May 2020, more than 250,998 internally displaced persons had been recorded, with more than 40 percent of them in the Mopti region alone. There were also reports of refugee arrivals from Burkina Faso and Niger in the Ménaka and Gao area.
Humanitarian assistance: Food assistance, mainly in the form of cash transfers, has been provided to poor populations and displaced persons by the government and humanitarian agencies from January to date. Thus, 717,279 people have been given monthly assistance, 313,473 of them in April alone, mainly in the regions of Ménaka, Gao, Kayes, Mopti, Tombouctou and Kidal (Food Security Cluster, June 2020). The current National Response Plan consists of food support from June to September for approximately 1.6 million people, while livelihood support will be available to nearly 2.5 million people.
Security: The security situation continues to be marked by ongoing security incidents that are negatively affecting the socioeconomic environment in Mali’s central and northern regions. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 367 incidents were recorded nationally in May 2020, compared with 144 in January, 351 in February and 332 in April. More than 75 percent of the incidents reported in May (282 incidents) occurred in the regions of Mopti (175 cases) and Ségou (107 cases) in the center of the country. The reduction in employment opportunities and incomes relative to the average for households in the area with stressed livelihoods or in need of protection, is limiting the ability of households to meet their food and non-food needs. Difficulties in accessing basic social services (health, education, markets) and in implementing humanitarian assistance are further worsening the living conditions of households in the affected areas, particularly displaced households. At the end of May, Mali was host to more than 250,998 internally displaced persons (Commission on Population Movements report, end April 2020) and 45,749 refugees from Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Cote d’Ivoire (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR, May 2020).
The most likely food security scenario from June 2020 to January 2021 is based on the following underlying assumptions regarding trends in nationwide conditions:
- COVID-19 restrictions: Despite a continued increase in the number of cases in the country, measures have been relaxed, with suspension of the curfew and partial re-opening of schools. These new arrangements will reduce the impact of COVID-19 on certain economic activities within the country. However, the likely spread of the pandemic, and the changing social behavior of individuals to safeguard their individual health, may lead to a de facto limitation on activities in several sectors and continue the significant decline in income.
- Export income of the country: Despite the willingness of countries to resume trading, the sluggish recovery and numerous health restrictions will continue to limit the export levels of local products, combined with the cancellation of most orders to European countries for certain cash crops (fruit, livestock, cereals). This will reduce the country’s export income during the period.
- Migrant remittances: According to the World Bank, there is expected to be a 20 percent decline in remittances from the United States and 40 percent from the European Union. Together with Central African countries, these are the main destinations for Mali’s migrants. Decreasing migrant incomes due to weak economic recovery, and problems with remittances because of the travel ban, will more than halve remittances to the country.
- Security situation and population movements: Security disruptions continue in the northern and central regions, where there are regular armed attacks, despite increased patrols and ongoing military operations. The resulting dispersion of armed groups has led to an increase in pockets of tension. According to FEWS NET, the volatile security situation is expected to continue from June to January in the regions of Tombouctou, Gao, Kidal and northern Ségou, and particularly in Ménaka and Mopti (Liptako-Gourma) where community conflicts are frequent. The resulting unusual population movements are expected to continue in line with the security situation, for which negotiations are ongoing.
- Rainfall/flooding: The consensus forecasts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NOAA NMME), International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) and Regional Climate Outlook Forum for Sudan o-Sahelian Africa (PRESASS) in June 2020 indicate a high probability of normal to excess cumulative rainfall in Mali, particularly in the center, where excess rainfall is expected. The early onset of rains, according to the same forecasts, is also conducive to a timely start to the country’s agropastoral calendar. A good temporal and geographical distribution of rainfall is needed to ensure a good level of agricultural production for the current growing season. The same applies to the various rivers serving Mali in the Niger and Senegal river basins, whose flows are expected to be average or above average.
- Locust invasion: The desert locust situation remains stable overall, but with solitarious adults in the northeast of the country in the Timetrine and Tin Ekar areas. According to the FAO desert locust bulletin, there will be limited breeding in these areas of habitual presence in the coming months. Given the current conditions, particularly those favorable to sustaining desert locusts in the areas of concern (Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, Sudan), a large-scale locust invasion in the Sahel is not likely at this time, but it is not implausible. Given the current favorable situation in the Sahel, which is set to continue, and the current location of the locusts, although swarms may arrive in the Sahel they are not expected to be large-scale swarms that would seriously jeopardize harvests.
- Agricultural production: Preparations for the new agricultural growing season are underway throughout Mali. Favorable seasonal forecasts in terms of climatic factors (rainfall and floods), the continuing national state agricultural input subsidy program (seeds and fertilizer), and the continuing hydro-agricultural development programs, suggest average to above-average cereal production in the country in October 2020. The same is true for flood recession crops in the Tombouctou and Mopti lakes area, where average flooding in 2019 increased the area under cultivation. Average to above-average harvests are expected in August/September for flood recession crops, October/November for millet, sorghum and seasonal maize, and December/January for rice. This assumes that other unfavorable conditions are under control, such as the negative impact of COVID-19 on the supply of inputs and mobility of supervisors, and regular infestations including armyworm. Support in terms of agricultural supplies, particularly in the northern regions, by the FAO, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other NGOs as part of resilience-building programs, will strengthen beneficiary households’ productive capacities. However, localized declines in production are expected in Liptako-Gourma, where conflicts will limit access to fields for some households.
- Animal production/livestock movements: The normal pastoral lean season in most agropastoral zones, and the timely onset of rainfall supporting the usual restoration of livestock conditions, are conducive to normal resumption of livestock production (milk, butter and meat) from June to July. The peak in production will be reached in August/September and will be at average levels.
- Transhumance: Herds are located in dry season concentration areas around permanent water points (wells, ponds and rivers). A return toward winter pasture is starting due to livestock conditions being restored. Disruptions in conflict areas will continue with less intensity, thanks to improved livestock conditions which support widespread dispersion.
- Agropastoral lean season: The agropastoral lean season that begins in June will be normal for most of the country's population, owing to average household access to food following the good 2019 harvests. However, poor households’ dependence on markets for one to two months longer than usual in the poor production areas of Gao, Mopti and Tombouctou, which are experiencing a drop in income compared with the average, will lead to the lean season starting a month or more earlier than in a normal year. The same is true for poor households in the country's urban centers, as well as areas dependent on migrant remittances. This is because of the negative impact of COVID-19 measures, which have reduced household incomes through the reduction in economic activities and the decline of more than 20-40 percent in remittances for over two thirds of households.
Markets and prices
- Market supplies: Traditional market supply channels continue to function, albeit with a decline in trade flows for imported products due to the slowdown in movements from export countries and port-level compliance with hygiene measures. Local supply channels are continuing normally in the absence of lockdown measures. However, the decline in market access is reducing market availability, which in some places is leading to fluctuations in food supply during this period of seasonal decline in supply. These fluctuations are more evident in the northern regions because of the insecurity currently disrupting trade flows. The good market availability of cereals throughout the country, thanks to good cereal production in 2019 and average to above-average stock levels, will contribute to good cereal supplies from June to October. The average to good new harvests expected in October/November will lead to the usual increase in the market supply of cereals. The availability of imported foodstuffs will depend on how the COVID-19 situation evolves in supply markets.
- Staple foods prices: The seasonal upward trend in cereal prices is observed, but it is less marked than in a normal year, as a result of their good availability and falling demand for industrial units and exports due to the impacts of COVID-19 throughout the country. Staple cereal prices are similar to below average in production areas and similar to above average in consumption areas. According to the FEWS NET price projection system, cereal prices will be below or similar to average in the main markets. However, the decline in flows for imported foodstuffs (rice, milk, oil, wheat flour, sugar) has increased the prices of these commodities by 5 to 15 percent compared with the average, or by more than 20 percent in the northern regions. The government’s relief measures have made it possible to limit this increase and maintain prices at an average level in areas of the south where trade services are controlled. The increase, which is linked to COVID-19 restrictions, is expected to become less marked from June onwards as a result of the relaxation of these measures in import countries.
- Livestock prices: There is a seasonal decline in livestock prices on the markets due to the usual deterioration in their physical condition. Poor livestock conditions in the western Sahel strip of Kayes, insecurity in the central and northern parts of the country, in addition to border closures with neighboring countries, have reduced demand for livestock on the markets, leading to falls in livestock prices, especially for cattle. Similar to slightly above average livestock prices due to Ramadan demand will improve seasonally, as a result of the recovery of livestock conditions which will help improve the physical condition of livestock. Disruptions in household access to markets in the insecure areas of Ménaka and Mopti, and the willingness of the households concerned to carry out emergency sales, will reduce price levels to below average in these areas.
- Humanitarian assistance: Food and non-food assistance continues throughout Mali for food insecure households, of which there are estimated to be over 5 million (National Response Plan). Food distribution, initiated by the government with the support of humanitarian partners, of more than 56,000 tons of cereal is underway and will continue until September. The emergence of COVID-19, with its impact on the population, has increased the number of people in need. These additional needs require additional funds which are not always available. Compliance with control measures is also requiring a reorganization of the logistics system, such as increasing the number of distribution points and/or changing the type of intervention (cash distribution instead of direct food supply) and causing delays in implementation. The budget overruns, in addition to problems with humanitarian access to insecure areas, are likely to negatively affect the impact of assistance on the populations in need.
- Institutional stock replenishment: Institutional purchases are underway in major production markets for replenishment of the national food security stock under the National Response Plan (more than 20,000 tons of cereal). These institutional purchases that are taking place outside the usual period should not have a major impact on supply and prices, given the high levels of market stock and the fact that suppliers had already been preparing themselves by building up stock since last year.
- Migration: Workers who had left in search of earnings for their households are currently returning to the country’s agricultural areas, thanks to the onset of rains which is boosting the new growing season. Workers already in the country should be able to return without major problems, but there will be disruption for those based in neighboring countries because of the travel ban between countries due to COVID-19. Seasonal migration income has been negatively affected by the closure of gold mining sites, which attract workers, and by the decline in economic activity in urban centers in Mali and in neighboring countries. Average to below-average income brought back in June, or sent during workers’ time away, will allow households to improve their access to markets, especially in areas of declining agricultural production, where departures have occurred earlier than usual.
- Fisheries: The fishing season ends in June, as river water levels rise again, and the new agricultural growing season begins. There will be the usual decrease in catches from June to September due to higher water levels in rivers. The expected average to above-average flow level in rivers, according to seasonal forecasting (PRESASS) will support the satisfactory reproduction of fish species. Outlooks for the next fishing season starting in November 2020 will therefore be average to above average overall.
- Nutrition: There is the usual deterioration in the nutritional situation (due to the depletion of stocks for small producers, the seasonal rise in food prices, and the prevalence of diseases such as malaria, acute kidney injuries, etc.), which will continue until September. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition is 10.0 percent [9.1-11.0] according to the July 2019 Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey. Despite the expected deterioration, prevalence is not expected to be significantly different to the five-year average, which was 10.7 percent according to the SMART lean season surveys. However, above-average deterioration will occur in insecure areas where access to basic social services is limited, and in areas of poor production resorting to food coping strategies such as reduced meal volume and quality, which are detrimental to household nutrition. From July/August onwards, the availability of milk and milk products and ongoing food assistance will limit deterioration in the nutritional situation, particularly in areas where nutritional screening and recovery programs are continuing. With the emergence of COVID‑19, there has also been a decline in attendance at health facilities, which is putting vulnerable groups at greater risk of acute malnutrition.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Overall average to above-average cereal availability in the country, and overall similar to below-average prices for foodstuffs, are favorable to average access to food for most households. As a result, most households in the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between June 2020 and January 2021. However, the early lean season resulting from the early depletion of stocks in the western Sahel area of Kayes and the Liptako-Gourma area, as well as the reduction in income due to COVID-19, are limiting the ability of poor households to access food during this lean season. The poor or borderline food consumption score of 22.4 percent, according to mVAM May 2020, indicates a nutritional deterioration compared with February (18.2 percent). This is thought to be more marked in the western Sahel area of Kayes, Liptako-Gourma and parts of the northern regions.
From July to September 2020, due to stock depletion and decreased income because of COVID-19, poor households in the western Sahel will adopt atypical strategies such as unusual livestock sales, increased labor, reduced non-food expenditure and borrowing to meet their food needs. The current Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity will therefore continue until October 2020, after which the expected average harvests will allow easy access to food. Poor households in Liptako-Gourma and Ménaka have livelihood protection deficits ranging from 37 percent in Bandiagara to 95 percent in Koro, due to the aftermath of continuing insecurity in the area, following looting and damage to property. In addition, the economic disruption and unusual displacement of populations relying mainly on humanitarian assistance will mean that poor households in this area are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity from June to September 2020.
From October 2020 to January 2021, the availability of own production (although low), payments in kind from the harvest, wild products, and the fall in cereal prices favorable to terms of trade for livestock/cereals will allow households to meet their food needs without resorting to atypical coping strategies. As a result, most pastoral and agropastoral households will return to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity from October to January. However, poor households affected by flooding, displaced populations and returning refugees will have difficulty meeting their food expenditure and livelihood recovery needs, and will therefore experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity until January 2021. The same will apply to poor households in urban centers and those dependent on migrant remittances.
Events that Might Change the Outlook
|Area||Event||Impact on Food Security outcomes|
|Northern and central Mali||
|Zones ML10 and ML11||
For more information on outlooks for specific areas of concern, please click on the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
About Scenario Development
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.
Region Contact Information