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Publication | 30 April 2021

Food insecurity rises amid conflict, price and weather shocks, and COVID-19 third wave

  • Conflict and insecurity continue to be a primary driver of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Yemen and in greater Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states of Sudan. Most recently, conflict in Tigray region of Ethiopia is causing high levels of population displacement, disrupting livelihood activities and market functioning, and limiting food assistance. In Yemen, intensified conflict in Marib is of increasing concern and a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists. South Sudan also continues to experience one of the worst food insecurity emergencies globally and urgent food assistance is needed to save lives, especially in greater Jonglei and the greater Tonj in Warrap.

  • High and above-average staple food, fuel, and water prices continue to limit food access and compound the severity of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Somalia. In Sudan, millet and sorghum prices rose 600-650 percent above the five-year average in March across most markets. Similar trends are observed in South Sudan. In Ethiopia, maize prices in Addis Ababa rose to 100 percent above the five-year average and sorghum prices rose 50 percent above the five-year average in Woldia in Amhara region. In Yemen, although four fuel ships were permitted to deliver fuel to Al Hudaydah port in March, fuel shortages and upward pressure on food prices are expected to resume after 1-2 months. In central and northern Somalia, water scarcity has caused the price of a 20-liter jerrican of water to double compared to 2020.

  • In bimodal areas of eastern Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, delayed and significantly below-average rainfall in March is anticipated to result in a second consecutive season of below-average harvests and suppressed livestock production. The population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is likely to peak in these areas during the subsequent June to September dry season, as households’ access to food and income erodes amid concurrent conflict, price, and desert locust shocks. In unimodal areas of western Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan, a forecast of above-average rainfall from June to September is likely to cause a consecutive year of flood-related displacement and crop and livestock losses. The population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is also likely to peak in these areas during this period, which overlaps the local lean seasons. 

  • The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to affect many countries of the region as a third wave of COVID-19 infections occurs in East Africa. Several countries in the region have re-imposed movement restrictions to mitigate the spread of infections that threaten to overrun generally nascent healthcare systems. For example, in Kenya – where control measures and enforcement are relatively more strict – this is expected to result in the loss of household income, higher staple food prices, and higher transport costs. Given the decline in purchasing power, the share of urban and market-dependent rural households that have food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse will likely rise in the short-term, while their coping capacity is likely to remain low in the medium term.   

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