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In addition to the security crisis, which is causing population displacement and the loss of livelihoods, Niger is facing the COVID-19 pandemic, with 648 cases, 20 deaths and 177 recoveries as of April 19, 2020.
In Niamey, the curfew and the movement restrictions are negatively impacting poor urban households who rely on informal labor as their key source of income to purchase food. Government assistance is planned for 700,000 beneficiaries in Niamey and the delivery of this assistance is likely to improve food security. However, information is not yet available on the size or duration of this assistance, which would be necessary to incorporate into the analysis. In the absence of this assistance, very poor households are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September.
The measures taken by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19 are causing significant disruption to the normal functioning of markets, reflected in a reduced supply of cereal products and livestock.
As a result of the combined effects of a sharp reduction in economic opportunities, a decline in purchasing power and above-average prices for consumer products, the numbers of people requiring food assistance are increasing. Between 15 and 20 percent of urban populations who depend on casual/day labor or self-employment and poor livestock farmers, in addition to vulnerable rural populations experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity, and who are tipping into Crisis (IPC Phase 3), are joining those already in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) following natural/climate and human-caused disasters.
Food availability is satisfactory in the country thanks to average agricultural production, which has resulted in average stock levels, in addition to carry-over stocks and imported products. This has created sufficient marketable capacity to allow flows from areas where there is excess supply to areas experiencing a deficit and non-agricultural areas. Prices for agricultural products remain higher than last year, however, and above the five-year average due to localized declines in output and reduced flows resulting from insecurity and the closure of the Nigerian border. With the appearance of COVID-19 in the country in mid-March 2020, government measures to limit its spread have led to a decline in the purchasing power of poor households as a result of reduced sources of income. The official measures mean that surplus producers in the regions of Maradi and Zinder are unable to move their supplies, and so there is limited internal flow of cereals, while better-off households in both farming and urban areas have taken to increasing their household food stocks.
In Niamey, which has been under quarantine, craftspeople and other informal laborers are losing their jobs or seeing their incomes drop sharply due to a lack of customers, who generally come from outside the city. Government measures are also having an impact on the working hours in some trades in urban centers. Those affected include urban transport workers, restaurateurs and night workers, whose reduced working hours translate to a significant drop in daily income. These measures are causing domestic staff to lose their jobs due to limits on contact between people and social distancing rules. These seasonal workers are, however, sources of income for their home households, to which they send cash transfers. Smallholder farmers who do not have their own means of transport cannot travel to distant markets and sell their animals at lucrative prices because of the ban on the movement of public transport vehicles. Income is also decreasing for timber and straw sellers, who normally find customers in urban centers, some of which have become inaccessible as a result of the isolation measures.
The measures also have implications for humanitarian assistance. By prohibiting gatherings or non-distanced contact between people, they are leading to the suspension of conditional and unconditional cash and in-kind transfers, pushing many categories of vulnerable households into acute food insecurity. Planning is, however, underway to conduct food assistance operations while respecting social and health measures.
As a result of these measures, which are hindering livelihood activities in both urban and rural areas and disrupting the trading system, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity, which was concentrated in conflict areas before the arrival of COVID-19, will extend to several areas, including urban areas, and to households in many socioeconomic categories. The ban on non-distanced contacts and gatherings means that fewer child nutrition awareness sessions and consultations are taking place in health facilities, resulting in worsening health conditions on top of the food and livelihood shortages that households are experiencing.
The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for February to September 2020 have changed as follows:
- COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to spread albeit with a gradual reduction in confirmed cases from May until at least June. The measures and their effects will continue until August/September 2020. Government restrictions will remain in place until the end of the state of emergency scheduled for July 2020.
- Conflicts: Conflicts and their impact on livelihoods in Diffa in the Lake Chad basin and in Tillabéri and Tahoua in the Liptako-Gourma region will also continue.
- Income sources: Preventive measures banning contact between people will lead to a drop in sales of horticultural products, timber and straw and will result in sales incomes far below seasonal incomes in urban and rural areas. Income from migrants will be heavily affected by restrictions on travel to other countries and to the country’s urban centers. The sale of agricultural labor and resulting income will be low due to measures hindering the movement of labor from one area to another.
- Outlook for the agropastoral season: The agricultural and pastoral growing season could begin on the normal date but, as a result of restrictions on the movement of people, there will be fewer agricultural workers available for weeding and planting, and supplies will be more expensive than usual resulting in limited access for households who will be prioritizing expenditure on food. These unfavorable factors will lead to a decline in planted fields and in forthcoming agricultural output.
- Food availability: Producers’ cereal stocks will continue to deplete, and local supply will be below average due to the decrease in production compared to the previous growing season. As a result of the movement restrictions in force across many countries of the region, imports and regular regional supply channels will not function normally. However, the off-season crop production that is proceeding normally with the support of the state and its partners and the fact that the main rivers are stocked to a good level could provide food resources for people in areas with potential.
- Demand: While the next two to four months are expected to see high demand for consumer and livestock products, thanks to the lean season coupled with the periods of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, commercial demand will be low due to the high transaction costs associated with preventive and security measures in supply countries. Commercial demand will also be low as there is no expectation of sustained local consumer demand. Consumer demand will be at its lowest level following the sharp reduction in consumer purchasing power due to the lack of income opportunities as a result of the COVID-19 prevention measures. Demand for livestock, whether local or for export, will also be very low because of measures that are significantly reducing the number of actors at markets.
- Flows: Cross-border flows from the Nigerian market will be significantly below average due to the security crisis and the border closure. The recent addition of restrictive measures to prevent COVID-19 is limiting the presence of actors. Cross-border flows from other countries (Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire), however, will continue with longer supply chains leading to higher transaction costs and, consequently, higher commodity prices. Outward flows of cash crops and animals will experience the same decreases in intensity as demand for exports to Nigeria and Ghana declines. Internal flows in areas where agricultural production is good (Maradi and Zinder) will be disrupted and operate at low intensity due to measures banning gatherings of people. These could also apply to the activities of weekly markets.
- Agricultural prices: Given the poor supply situation the country is facing as a result of the COVID-19 prevention measures applied in all countries, which are hindering cross-border and internal flows, cereal prices will be higher than last year and above the seasonal average. Livestock prices will remain below the seasonal average due to weak export demand and local demand as a result of the disruption of local markets. Under the curfew, it is impossible to engage in some income-generating activities, such as low-wage employment in urban centers on the part of poor households (sanitation work, for example).
- Humanitarian assistance: Humanitarian partners and the government have developed response plans for February to September 2020. Given the measures in place, it will be difficult to hold targeting meetings and to distribute food and non-food items using the option of distribution clusters. Institutional procurement to obtain the necessary quantities of food will be hampered by the health measures in place in all countries.
Insecurity and the low national stock levels as a result of average production coupled with restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 will increase prices on the markets while reducing food access due to the loss of income. This will push affected populations in the regions of Tillabéri and northern Tahoua into Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households affected by insecurity in the Diffa region will have access to adequate food through existing response programs that will continue to cover most of the food needs of vulnerable people caused by insecurity and internal displacement and they will remain at Stressed ! (IPC Phase 2!) levels of food insecurity. As a result of the combined effects of the depletion of producer stocks, high prices for consumer products and low household purchasing power, a large number of households, including urban households whose sources of income will be more affected by restrictions on movement and contacts, will have reduced access to food. Poor urban populations or those dependent on day labor and self-employment will lack the financial resources to access sufficient quantities of food and will experience a shortage of food in April and May, in other words a food insecurity Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, they will most likely receive government food assistance to prevent protests and the response could improve their food situation. However, information on the extent or duration of such assistance, which would be needed for it to be included in this analysis, is not yet available. In the absence of such assistance, very poor households are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until September.
Between 10 and 15 per cent of people in areas previously experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity will tip into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) following the loss of income and purchasing power due to COVID-19 social and health measures. These populations will remain in Crisis until September 2020 as a result of the continuing effects on market operations and on livelihoods, including income from agricultural work.
As a result of restrictions on people’s movements, exacerbated by the ban on certain transport services, such as public transport, market garden producers and those who trade in cash crops (cowpea, groundnut, etc.), manufactured products and animals and animal products will sell much less than normal and their incomes will be below average due to the decline in local and foreign buyers. Their financial resources will be insufficient to cover non-food expenditure in addition to food purchases, and significant proportions of these types of household in all livelihood zones will experience a deterioration in their food situation from May onwards. They will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until September 2020, as even if measures are lifted or eased, the effects on livelihoods will persist.
Seasonal calendar for a typical year
Source: FEWS NET
This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.