Regional Updates from FEWS.Net
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Regional Updates from FEWS.net

 

Ethiopia is experiencing a large-scale food security emergency in the central and eastern regions of the country due to the worst drought in over 50 years, according to a new FEWS.net alert. Low rainfall throughout 2015, combined with the highest May to September temperatures seen since 1960, caused extremely dry soil conditions and severely limited water supplies; this has resulted in significant crop losses, particularly impacting the northern pastoral areas of Afar Region and Sitti Zone, eastern and central Oromia, Belg-producing highlands, and northern Amhara/central Tigray. Eastern Amhara and eastern Tigray, the Amhara-Abay lowlands, and the lowlands of SNNPR are also being impacted.

It is expected that across central and eastern Ethiopia, the lean seasons will start earlier and be much more severe than usual. FEWS predicts a significant increase in acute malnutrition and warns that high mortality, particularly among children, is likely without immediate food assistance and nutrition/health support services. However, the report does emphasize that hunger-related deaths are unlikely to reach the levels seen during the 1984 drought and famine, thanks to improved early warning systems, the absence of civil conflict, and expanded existing food security and nutrition programs. (Read more analysis from IFPRI regarding how this drought differs from the 1984 situation.)

While a 1984-type famine is not anticipated, however, experts predict that Ethiopia’s humanitarian assistance needs will reach their highest levels in at least 12 years during 2016. FEWS suggests that at least 15 million people will need food assistance in the coming year, including 8 million who will receive transfers through the country’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) and 7 million drought-stricken people who will need emergency assistance. If rains remain below average during the first half of 2016, these needs could increase even further.

FEWS also released a new Weather Hazards Summary this week detailing conditions in other areas of Africa. Throughout southern Africa, seasonal rainfall has been below average since October; resulting in moisture deficits and reduced water availability. Livestock deaths and stressed crops have been reported throughout the region. However, heavy rainfall is forecast for next week in northern and eastern South Africa and southern Mozambique. Rain is also expected in western Angola and Tanzania, with lighter precipitation forecast in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, areas of East Africa have experienced above-average rainfall in recent months. Rainfall exceeded 100mm in Uganda, southern Kenya, northwestern Tanzania, southern Ethiopia, and southern Somalia. These rains are expected to continue in the coming week at least.

A third FEWS alert focuses on the ongoing food security emergency situation in Malawi. The report estimates that 2.8 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity throughout the country. Despite the growing problem, however, assistance has only been provided in six out of 25 affected districts thus far due to underfunding. The country’s Farm Input Subsidy Program also faced funding shortages this year, causing delays in the delivery of important agricultural inputs. Delivery will likely now miss critical agricultural activity periods, causing many households to delay planting, plant recycled (and thus less productive) seed, and use less fertilizer.

Malawi’s food prices remain high and continue to rise. Between September and October, average national maize prices increased by 10 percent, to nearly double the average price in October 2014.

Finally, conflict in South Sudan continues to disrupt livelihoods and cause acute food insecurity. Estimates suggest that 2.4 million people are in emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity, particularly in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States. The current state of food insecurity is due largely to the ongoing conflict in the country, which has constrained market function, displaced large swathes of the population, and made the delivery of humanitarian assistance difficult. Staple prices remain high throughout the country; for example, sorghum prices in Rumbek were 109 percent higher in September than in August. Food insecurity is only expected to continue in the coming months and into the early months of 2016.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

Photo credit:Flickr: Kate Holt/Africa Practice