Between December 2021 and March 2022, around 336,000 people (29% of the population in Eswatini) are estimated to be facing high acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 Crisis or above) and require urgent humanitarian assistance. Of this population, 286,000 people are classified in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and 50,000 in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). An additional 376,000 are classified in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed) and require livelihood support. Compared to the October 2021 - March 2022 projection period from the August 2021 analysis, this update shows a slight deterioration, with a slight increase in the food insecure population in IPC Phase 3 or above in all livelihood zones except for Highveld Cattle and Maize, Timber Highlands and Moist Middleveld, with the latter two having 47% of their households having food stocks lasting more than six months. This update has seen the population projected to be in IPC Phase 3 or above increase by 19,000 people.
The main factors that have led to an increase in food insecurity include the protracted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (a key driver of food insecurity as in the previous analysis), with increasing levels of unemployment, which have risen from 23.5% in 2020 to 33.5% in November 2021. High food prices are also a key driver that have caused the noted increase in the food insecure population in this updated projection. Social unrest has led to the destruction of businesses in urban and peri-urban areas. These businesses play a significant role in supplying foodstuffs from the urban areas to the rural areas. This is a significant change from the previous analysis where the factors responsible for food insecurity were the dry spells from November and December 2020. These factors negatively impacted the start of the farming season, and crop production and prolonged rains in February as a result of Cyclone Eloise, which resulted in flooding in most areas, caused crop damage and poor yields. The COVID-19 impacts have remained a driver of food insecurity and are expected to continue to be magnified in peri-urban and urban populations with the increase in unemployment. The predicted fourth wave of COVID-19 is assumed to escalate the strain in fiscal prudence since the expectation will be for the Government to increase support in the health sector and food security sectors.