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Large-scale food security Emergency to continue through September

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • February - September 2016
Large-scale food security Emergency to continue through September

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • El Niño related drought in 2015 significantly impacted Belg and Meher harvests across much of central and eastern Ethiopia, and contributed to very low levels of pasture regeneration in northern pastoral areas. More than 10 million people are in need of emergency food assistance in 2016 as a result of subsequent impacts to food availability and access.

    • In drought-affected Afar Region and Sitti Zone of northern Somali Region, many poor households continue to face larger gaps in their basic food needs. Herd sizes have been very significantly reduced either by livestock deaths or increased livestock sales. Much of northern pastoral Ethiopia will continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food security outcomes through September.

    • Agricultural and agropastoral areas of East and West Hararghe, Wag Himra, and North Wollo also face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes as 2015 drought left them with little to no harvest stocks and reduced labor and livestock incomes. Broader areas of eastern Tigray and Amhara, central and eastern Oromia, and northern SNNPR will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September.

    • Current contributions to the humanitarian appeal for food assistance have only funded approximately 45 percent of identified needs. In the absence of additional funding, assistance will not be guaranteed past June, while peak needs are expected between June and September.

    National Overview
    Current Situation
    • Following the worst drought in more than 50 years across much of central and eastern Ethiopia, 2015 national Meher production was significantly below average as the El Niño-related dryness heavily impacted cropping conditions. While the October to January Meher harvest would typically contribute greatly to household food availability for agricultural households in a normal year, in 2015 agricultural and agropastoral households in central and eastern Ethiopia experienced large crop losses. Affected areas include, eastern Tigray and Amhara, and central and eastern Oromia and SNNPR. Production losses were 70 percent or greater in worst-affected areas. These losses come after a very poor Belg harvest in most areas. As such, poor households in many affected areas have already run out of own-production stocks, in many instances three months or more earlier than normal.

    • Similarly, 2015 El Niño-related drought across most of Afar and northern Somali Region has reduced pastoral resource availability and in turn is contributing to very poor livestock body conditions. The impact on pastoral livelihoods has significantly restricted household food and income access from livestock products, sales and wage labor. Although livestock feed interventions and moderate rainfall in late December and early January in some areas had contributed to a decline in livestock deaths compared to what could have been expected, poor households’ availability of salable livestock in these areas had already become limited.

    • As a result of the decline in supply from local production, staple food prices began increasing earlier than normal across some markets in northern, central and eastern Ethiopia. Normally, prices in most of these areas would not begin to increase seasonally until April. Conversely, livestock prices in central and eastern Ethiopia continued to decline or remained low due to poor livestock body conditions and increased supply. With atypically low incomes from agriculture sales, below-average incomes from casual labor due to increased labor supply, and well below average pastoral incomes, access to market purchase in central and eastern Ethiopia remains difficult.

    • The Ethiopian Humanitarian Requirements Document estimates 10.2 million people will be food insecure in 2016. The majority of food insecure households are in eastern Amhara and Tigray, central and eastern Oromia, Afar, northern Somali and SNNPR. Of the total 1.4 billion USD identified as needed to address the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, to date only 45 percent of requested food assistance funding and 40 percent of requested nutrition and health funding has been secured. In most drought-affected areas, emergency food assistance has been ongoing since the last quarter of 2015 based largely on September 2015 targeting plans. Although food assistance distributions continue for targeted households, current levels of funding for the appeal will likely lead to a pipeline break in June 2016.

    • Between September and December 2015, admissions to therapeutic feeding programs (TFP) across Ethiopia had declined from their highest value in August 2015 due to slightly improved food access from the meager Meher 2015 harvest and humanitarian interventions. Nonetheless, December 2015 TFP admissions are approximately 35% higher than the three year average for December.

    • Due to severely poor seasonal performance in 2015, massive livestock deaths, displacements, fewer livestock holdings and low livestock product availability, poor households in southern parts of Afar and Sitti Zone in Somali Region are currently facing significant gaps in their basic food needs and high level of household asset depletion. Low livestock to cereal terms of trade are further reducing household food access from purchase. The low availability of milk is adversely affecting levels of acute malnutrition in children. Currently, poor households in Sitti Zone of Somalia Region and southern parts of Afar Region are experiencing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. Similarly, households in the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zones in Oromia Region and parts of Wag Himra Zone in Amhara Region are currently facing large deficits in their basic food needs following very significantly below-average harvests in 2015. Poor and very poor households in these areas are also currently in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • Many households in eastern parts of Amhara and Tigray Regions (including Belg producing areas), central and eastern Oromia and northern SNNPR along rift valley are exhausting their own production stocks much earlier than normal. Income from livestock sales is lower than normal due to poor livestock body conditions and high supply on markets. Food from purchase has been challenged by higher staple food prices on markets. Poor households in these areas are currently experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity as they are unable to fully meet their basic food needs without accelerated asset depletion. Were it not for ongoing humanitarian intervention, many of these households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as well as those in central and northern Afar Region, would be experiencing much larger gaps in their basic food needs.

    • Households lesser affected by poor 2015 seasonal performance in Tigray, Amhara, central Oromia, the rift valley of SNNPR, and northern Somali Regions have somewhat better food availability and access as cropping and pastoral conditions were less affected. Households in these areas do, however, still face reductions in seasonal incomes from wage labor and crop and livestock sales. As many poor households are unable to meet their basic nonfood needs, large areas of these regions classified in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) where humanitarian assistance is ensuring households are meeting their basic food needs.

    • Outside of central and eastern regions of the country, much of the rest of Ethiopia experienced seasonably good rainfall in 2015. Average Meher harvests in western cropping areas of Tigray, Amhara, Benshangul Gumuz, western Oromia, Gambella, and southern and western SNNPR are providing good food availability for most. Markets are relatively better supplied and prices are generally in line with seasonal norms, affording good food access for households who rely on market purchase. These areas are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity.


    From February to September 2016, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national assumptions:

    • National and global weather forecasts indicate that February to May Belg/Sugum/Dirac/Gu rains are likely to be normal to above normal in terms of cumulative total. In addition, early global forecasts indicate that June to September Kiremt/Karma/Karan rains are also likely to be near normal in accumulation.

    • Following poor 2015 rainfall, pastoral resource availability will be extremely limited in northern pastoral areas, with extremely restricted availability of forage and water expected through the lean season. Expectedly average to above-average 2016 rainfall performance is expected to contribute to an improvement in pastoral resource availability beginning in late spring/early summer 2016.

    • Following the below average 2015 Meher and resulting limited availability of crop residue, availability of livestock fodder will remain limited until the start of the Kiremt rains in June/July in central and eastern agricultural areas affected by poor 2015 seasonal performance. However, earlier improvements in livestock body conditions are anticipated in areas that receive Belg rains.

    • Particularly in areas affected by poor 2015 seasonal performance, the below average Belg and Meher crop production in 2015, cereal supply to the markets is likely to remain well below-average through at least June in Belg rain receiving areas, and September in Kirempt-dependent areas. Staple food prices are expected to remain above-average in these areas through at least September due to increased demand for purchase and low market supply.

    • The availability of agricultural labor opportunities is likely to be normal starting February with the start of the Belg season and continue through September with the Kirempt season. Labor supply for both agricultural and non-agricultural work in central and eastern Ethiopia, however, will likely be higher than usual as households continue to seek opportunities to increase their incomes in the face of limited food availability. Increased labor supply is expected to contribute to decreasing wage labor rates.

    • Restricted food availability in central and eastern Ethiopia is likely to contribute to an increased risk for acute malnutrition through September in Meher dependent areas, and mainly from February to May in Belg Producing areas. Deterioration of the nutrition situation is also expected due to seasonal increases of diarrhea disease between February to June and increased caregiver’s workload in planting season which compromises infant and child feeding and care practices. During the last three years, the average number of TFP admissions between February and September at the country-level was about 216,000. The number of admission is likely to increase during the same period in 2016.

    • Current funding of the emergency food assistance appeal in the HRD appeal will run out in June 2016.

    • Resource transfers through the Productive Safety Net Program are expected to take place following the typical schedule through June 2016 for the approximately eight million beneficiaries.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Despite the anticipated average accumulation of rainfall during the coming seasons, poor household’s incomes in northern pastoral areas are unlikely to improve as livestock holdings have been reduced due to high levels of livestock deaths, high levels of sales, and low conception rates over the previous year. Poor households will continue to experience extremely difficult market access in the face of these low incomes and high staple food prices. Southern Afar and Sitti Zone in the Somali will continue in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through September as poor households larger gaps in their basic food needs.

    In the lowlands of Wag Himra and East and West Hararghe households have extremely limited food availability, and access to markets is severely restricted by limited incomes and increasing staple food prices. Food availability is not expected to improve significantly until Mehr harvests in October. While households are expected to seek additional income from wage labor and livestock sales, this will be restricted by increased labor supply and low livestock to cereal terms of trade. As poor households continue to experience larger food consumption gaps, many of these areas are expected to remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through September. Many neighboring areas, similarly affected by the 2015 drought, will remain in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) until June as targeted humanitarian assistance allows poor households to meet a greater share of their basic food needs. After June, these areas will move to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) if further funding for humanitarian assistance is not secured.

    Poor and very poor drought-affected households in central Oromia, northern SNNPR, eastern Tigray and eastern plains of Amhara have already begun to deplete their household stocks from the well below–average 2015 Meher harvest. As with Wag Himra and East and West Hararghe, availability of income from labor and livestock sales is also limited in these areas. Although food and income sources will be somewhat less impacted in these areas, poor households are still expected to face difficulty meeting their basic food needs between now and at least September 2016, as these areas face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity. Some households will be able to fill their food consumption gaps and be Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) due to ongoing humanitarian assistance deliveries until June, after which they, too, will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    With good availability of generally average 2015 Meher crop production in the western surplus-producing areas of the country and typical levels of income earnings expected, households will continue to be able to meet their essential food and nonfood needs through September, as these zones remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Similarly, the likely normal March to May Gu rains in southern pastoral areas is expected to further improve pastoral conditions, allowing for typical market access through livestock sales. Most southern pastoral areas in Somali Region are expected to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through September.


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, February 2016

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, February 2016

    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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