The severity of acute food insecurity is highest in Yemen, South Sudan, and Sudan, where several areas are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). In South Sudan, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is likely among pockets of households in Jonglei and Upper Nile, who are extremely vulnerable to conflict- or flood-related disruptions to key food and income sources. Protracted conflict and civil insecurity coupled with long-term macroeconomic deterioration remain the primary drivers of food insecurity in these countries; however, the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are contributing to further declines in household income and access to food. Additionally, recent floods and desert locusts have caused crop production losses in parts of Sudan and South Sudan. While not the most likely scenario, a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in Yemen and in South Sudan.
In the nine countries that FEWS NET monitors in the East Africa region, confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths as of August 31st exceeded 111,500 and 2,900, respectively, led by Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan. The economic impacts of COVID-19 are primarily driven by movement restrictions and vary across countries, including reductions in formal and informal business activity, migratory and local labor activities, sales of crops and livestock, remittance inflows, and tourism; minimal to moderate reductions in crop production; a slowdown in regional trade flows; and constrained capacity to deliver in-kind food assistance. These impacts on household income and food sources have increased the scale of the population that is experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, particularly in urban and peri-urban areas and among displaced populations.
In Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia, significantly above-average staple food prices are making it more difficult for poor households to purchase their minimum food needs. Rising food prices are attributed to multiple factors and vary across each country, but include reductions in export earnings and local currency depreciation that make food imports increasingly expensive; the impacts of below-average crop production on market supply; and the impact of COVID-19 movement restrictions and other preventive measures on regional and domestic supply chains. According to data collected in key reference markets in July, sorghum prices exceeded the five-year average by 150-250 percent across Sudan, 50-240 percent across South Sudan, 85 percent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and 20-55 percent in southern Somalia.
The October to December (OND) 2020 rains are expected to be below average in the greater Horn of Africa, according to the consensus of ensemble forecast models that include the North American Multi-Model Ensemble. The impact of below-average rainfall on crop and livestock production is likely to drive high food assistance needs through at least early 2021 in Somalia, southern and southeastern Ethiopia, and northern and eastern Kenya, which depend on the OND rains. Crop losses, reduced demand for agricultural labor, rising staple food prices, declines in milk availability, increased expenditures on water and livestock feed, and increased resource-based conflict are among the negative impacts that will likely lead to an increase in the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Furthermore, there is an elevated likelihood of below-average rainfall in the March to May 2021 season. Two consecutive below-average seasons would likely result in rapidly worsening acute food insecurity.