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East Africa Key Message Update: Food insecurity remains elevated in several areas, despite improvement in parts of the Horn, February 2020

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Key Messages

  • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes persist in several areas of the East Africa region due to protracted conflict, macroeconomic shocks, and ongoing recovery from recent drought and floods. Food insecurity also remains high among the internally displaced population, who number more than 12 million people and are located in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Burundi. The severity of food insecurity remains highest in Yemen and South Sudan, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are present. In South Sudan, the January 2020 IPC concluded that Catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are likely in Akobo, Duk, and Ayod counties of Jonglei state, where some households that faced multiple shocks were cut off from food and income sources by severe floods for a prolonged period of time.

  • The desert locust upsurge is driving heightened concern for crop and livestock production in the March to June 2020 season and impacts on food security in the latter half of 2020. Ecological conditions have been favorable to the pests’ spread and control measures have been largely inadequate, permitting their proliferation in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan and their arrival in northeastern Uganda and southeastern South Sudan. Although there were no large-scale, adverse effects on food security in the late 2019/early 2020 production season, it is currently anticipated that desert locust will drive crop losses in marginal agricultural areas and pasture loss in pastoral areas in 2020 – particularly in areas where the concentration of desert locust is high and control measures are minimal. Areas of greatest concern include southern and central Somalia, Somali region of Ethiopia, and northeastern Kenya, where insecurity limits efforts to carry out aerial spraying of pesticides.

  • Macroeconomic shocks, including severe depreciation or rapid devaluation of local currencies, foreign exchange deficits, and high inflation rates, continue to drive well above-average food and fuel prices in early 2020 in Yemen, South Sudan, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In December and January, staple cereal and fuel prices reached up to 320 percent above the five-year averages in each country, with Sudan experiencing the highest price increases at 150-320 percent above average. Low fuel imports in Yemen, large national cereal deficits in Sudan and South Sudan, and poorly functioning markets in conflict-affected areas are additional contributing factors that have driven sharp increases in food commodity prices. As a result, household purchasing power and food access among poor and conflict-affected households is highly constrained, leading to food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

  • The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook, supported by the multi-model ensemble forecast models, predicts elevated odds of above-average March to May 2020 rainfall performance over most of the East Africa region, except in parts of northeastern Ethiopia. On the one hand, the rainfall forecast is favorable for the consolidation of food security gains, driving enhanced production in breadbasket areas where relatively colder temperatures are less conducive to locusts, increased demand for agricultural labor, and suppressed resource-based conflict. On the other hand, there is an increased likelihood of additional breeding of locusts in warmer marginal agricultural and pastoral areas, increased incidence of vector and water-borne diseases, and flooding in areas already inundated by the previous season’s heavy rains. A scale-up in desert locust control efforts and enhanced flood-response preparedness are necessary to prevent the reversal of recent food security gains.