New FEWS Net Country Alerts

The latest series of updated country alerts from FEWS Net provides food security and food production updates for several countries in Africa south of the Sahara.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conflict continues to pose a significant challenge for food security. Conflict and civil unrest have displaced several hundred thousand people in the country, and FEWS Net forecasts that the lean season is expected to start earlier and be more severe than average. These factors, combined with a depreciation of the Congolese France and the US dollar, have raised food prices in markets throughout the country, lowering purchasing power and food access for many poor households. More than 1.5 million people are now facing IPC Emergency levels of hunger and 7.7 million people are in need of food aid, according to a recent report from Reuters.

In Tanzania, near-average staple food production in some regions will improve food security and food access among poor households. A maize export ban enacted by the Tanzanian government in June has also contributed to increasing domestic staple food supplies and lowering staple food prices. However, FEWS Net reports that the ban may impact future production by southern surplus-producing households, who are currently receiving lower-than-normal prices due to the ban. Tanzania’s refugee population, many of whom come from neighboring Burundi, will likely experience deteriorating food security in the coming months, due to reduced assistance from international donors; food security among refugees could reach IPC Crisis Phase, according to FEWS Net.

Crop losses in southwestern Uganda appear to be greater than originally forecast, due mainly to persistent dry weather. While many households will remain in IPC Minimal Phase food insecurity due to declining market prices and the availability of some harvests, poor households who have been hard hit by the dry weather may continue to be in Stressed Phase food insecurity through November.  While staple food prices have declined somewhat in recent months, they remained 75-100 percent above average in June. Many poor households have turned to the sale of charcoal and firewood for their livelihoods, and terms of trade have been reduced by around 50 percent for many households.

Malawi is starting to see near-average maize prices as harvests conclude favorably in the central and northern regions of the country. For example, in Salima (central Malawi), average maize prices declined by 19 percent between April and June and fell almost 50 percent lower than June 2016 prices. In Karonga (northern Malawi), average maize prices fell almost 39 percent below their five-year average in June. Across the country, many households remain in Minimal Phase food insecurity. Maize imports have declined below the five-year average due to the favorable 2017 production, while maize exports continue to rise 76 percent above average due to increased demand from neighboring countries in East Africa.

In Kenya, food security continues to deteriorate in pastoral areas due to seasonal dry weather. Extremely Critical and Critical levels of malnutrition persist in several regions due to below-average milk production and decreasing livestock prices. Crop production in the southeastern regions of the country is also below average, with maize production reaching only 26 percent of the five-year average in July. Coastal regions are experiencing better harvests, with maize and cassava production expected to be 70 percent and 90 percent of average, respectively. Staple food prices have fallen slightly in marginal agricultural areas and in urban areas, but maize prices remain 35-60 percent above average, continuing to put pressure on poor households’ purchasing power. FEWS Net expects many agricultural households to remain in Stressed Phase food insecurity or to reach Crisis Phase food insecurity in the near term (through September).

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

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EU/ECHO/Eunice Maina