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East Africa Key Message Update: Severe to extreme food insecurity persists due to conflict, drought, and other shocks

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Severe to extreme acute food insecurity outcomes persist in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen, driven primarily by conflict and exacerbated by concurrent weather or macroeconomic shocks. Northern Ethiopia remains the area of highest concern, where conflict has displaced millions of people, key supply routes are significantly disrupted, and many people have little to no access to food or income sources. Moreover, humanitarian access for food assistance delivery is very limited. Most of Tigray, parts of Amhara, and parts of Afar face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), and high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality are likely occurring. In Tigray, worse outcomes are possible, but the available evidence is insufficient to confirm.

In addition to northern Ethiopia, the severity of acute food insecurity is expected to remain high in South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen into early 2022. In South Sudan, political and intercommunal conflict and a third consecutive year of severe floods are expected to sustain Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes throughout the 2021 harvest period. In Sudan, rising insecurity and conflict in Darfur, South Kordofan, and parts of the White Nile, coupled with flooding in eastern and central Sudan, will similarly sustain Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during the 2021 harvest period. In Yemen, protracted conflict – including an escalation of conflict in and around Marib – large-scale displacement, and rapid food and fuel price increases are also leading to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, with the worst-affected households likely to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

Southern and southeastern Ethiopia, eastern and northern Kenya, and Somalia face a third consecutive below-average rainfall season from October to December, and long-range forecasts suggest the March to May 2022 season will also be below average. This scenario is highly likely to result in a four-season drought, which would worsen food insecurity through at least mid-2022. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are expected to become widespread in these areas, marked by below-average harvests, water and pasture shortages, increased livestock mortality, and above-average food prices. Poor 2021 rainfall is also a driving factor of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the Karamoja sub-region of Uganda, where the next rainfall season will not occur until April 2022.

The impacts of conflict and drought on market supply, coupled with macroeconomic shocks such as depleted foreign exchange reserves and local currency depreciation, resulted in above-average prices for staple foods, fuel, and other commodities in several countries in August. Many households already have insufficient food stocks and income-generating opportunities, and high prices have further constrained household purchasing power and access to food. In Ethiopia, for example, the annual inflation rate reached 30.4 percent, the highest rate recorded in a decade. Riverine areas of southern Somalia saw a 20-50 percent decline in the amount of cereal that a laborer could purchase with a day’s wage compared to the August five-year average. Meanwhile, staple cereal prices were 500-600 percent above average in Sudan and 190 percent above average in Juba, South Sudan. Similarly, in Yemen, the cost of the minimum food basket rose 62 percent compared to the same time last year.