Many poor rural households face low food availability, seasonally low income, and rising food prices, indicating an early start to the lean season. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are driven by the loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic, crop losses during hurricanes Eta and Iota, and impacts of previous droughts. Poor households will likely resort to negative livelihoods coping strategies or have slight to moderate food consumption gaps until the start of the primera harvest in mid-August. Needs are projected to be highest in parts of northern and southern Honduras, northeastern Nicaragua, and western El Salvador.
In urban areas, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is underway after governments lifted many restrictions. However, national employment rates and household income are still below pre-pandemic levels. Despite an increase in household participation in the informal sector, income levels remain below normal due to the loss of formal employment and increased competition in the informal sector. Reduced household income and near- to above-average staple food prices are driving low household purchasing power, constraining food access. As a result, a significant share of the urban population will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.
Staple food prices are now expected to rise higher than previously projected due to higher-than-anticipated fuel prices, rendering the transportation of food commodities more costly. Red bean prices are expected to be especially high in Honduras and Nicaragua, where atypically high prices are already observed due to postrera crop losses during hurricanes Eta and Iota. Although imported food commodities may somewhat mitigate the impact in Honduras and El Salvador, Nicaragua is expected to be the worst affected as local fuel prices are already the highest in the region.
The second wave of COVID-19 in Central America has receded from its peak in January. Under pressure to reopen the economy, governments are reluctant to reinstate any significant restrictive measures in the near term. Vaccinations have started in the region, prioritizing first responders and high-risk groups. Nonetheless, the proportion of the vaccinated population is expected to remain relatively low in the medium term based on currently limited access to vaccines at the country level.