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Humanitarian Outlook for the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region (October - December 2015)



This report has been developed collectively with humanitarian partners in the region to inform preparedness and advocacy efforts to mitigate and manage humanitarian risk in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region . It presents a four-month trend analysis from June to September 2015 and a humanitarian outlook from October to December 2015. It is the second report in the series and updates the previous scenario report which was published in May 2015.

Trend Analysis: Since May, the main regional drivers of humanitarian need continued to be protracted conflict, and economic and climatic shocks, with the initial impact of the El Niño weather system starting to be felt. During the reporting period, the number of refugees increased by 188,000 people, almost exclusively from South Sudan, Burundi and Yemen, representing a 7 per cent increase.

However, refugee flows have slowed compared with the previous reporting period linked to the signing of the South Sudan peace agreement and the installation of President Nkurunziza in Burundi. There was an increase in the number of food insecure people by 6.7 million, from 18.5 million to 25.3 million people, as the impact of El Niño is increasing food insecurity in Ethiopia in particular.

Outlook: During the outlook period, a resurgence in violence in Burundi and South Sudan could lead to an increase in the rate of both internal and cross border movements.

UNHCR is forecasting an additional 194,000 refugees by year-end, bringing the total number of refugees in the region to 3.37 million. However, given an analysis of the trends, it is projected that conflict-related humanitarian needs will remain stable over the coming months and that the major driver of additional humanitarian need will be climate-related. Climatic conditions are forecast to worsen over the coming months, leading to increased food insecurity. Drought conditions persist in South Sudan, Sudan,

Eritrea, Djibouti and primarily Ethiopia where number of food insecure increased from 2.9 million people at the start of 2015, to 8.2 million today and the Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team (EHCT) projects that it will reach 15 million people by 2016. Excessive rain could lead to flooding, directly affecting more than 2 million people especially in Kenya and Somalia. This could result in localised displacement and increasing the incidence of communicable diseases.

It is the confluence of conflict, adverse climate events and economic shocks that is of particular concern.

I . Risk analysis

1 . El Niño increasing food insecurity: While the extent of El Niño’s impact remains uncertain, FEWS NET has confirmed that the climatic event continues to strengthen.

Historically, El Niño events have borne significant impacts in the region: 1.7 million people were affected through dis-placement and loss of property and livestock during the 1997/8 and 2007 El Niño according to FAO.

Over the next 3-6 months, the following is expected: Humanitarian needs resulting from drought conditions recorded until the end of September: Below-normal rains have resulted in drought like conditions in the northern sector of the region, mostly in Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea, which have already experienced poor cropping and drier-than-normal vegetation conditions this year. According to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG), Karan/Karma rains were below average, negatively impacting water and pasture regeneration and consequently livestock production, especially in Afar region and Sitti zone of Somali region in Ethiopia. In Sudan below average rainfall (25-80%), delayed and limited the area under cultivation. Low regeneration of pasture conditions impacting negatively on livestock production in Djibouti and Somalia reported below average cereal harvests due to poor rainfall. According to WFP nearly 4 million people, roughly a third of the population in South Sudan, face severe food insecurity and tens of thousands could deteroriate to famine if access is not granted. In one of the hardest-hit areas, Unity State, at least 40,000 people are living in extreme conditions and are facing starvation and death. The number of people in need who are food insecure in need of humanitarian assistance is expected to increase to 32.1mn.

Excessive rainfall is forecast from October to December 2015/January 2016: There is in-creased likelihood of above-normal rains for the equatorial sector in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Rainfall is likely to continue past the end of the normal season and into January 2016. Above-average rainfall could provide an opportunity for enhanced crop production and replenishment of reservoirs. However, excessive rainfall over a protracted period or heavier rains over a shorter time period could cause severe and sustained flooding which will cause localized displacement, impede crop production and increase post-harvest losses.

Of particular concern is the flood-prone Shabelle and Juba Valleys in Somalia, the Rift Valley in Kenya, and Northern Tanzania from the Victoria Basin to the coast. Excessive rainfall could also trigger outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid, as well as vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Cholera remains a persistent concern in at least 5 countries, and high Crude Fatality Rate (CFR) rates in Kenya, South Sudan and DRC. There could also be an increased disease burden on animals, such as through outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever. More than 2 million people could be affected by flooding.

Historical patterns show that a strong El Niño event is often, but not always, followed by an El Niña and that the average humanitarian impact of La Niña is greater than El Niño in the Horn. If a La Niña climatic event were to materialize in 2016 the worst humanitarian effects are yet to come.

2 . Conflict incidents have decreased in hotspots in the region, but are likely to increase again to year-end. Since May, violence has decreased in South Sudan following the peace talks, in Sudan following adverse weather conditions and in DRC. In Burundi conflict incidents decreased while freedom shrank and the incidence of targeted killings and human rights violations increased. The beginning of November saw a sharp rise in both conflict incidents and fatalities. Meanwhile, Somalia saw sustained high levels of violence and fatalities as AMI- SOM started a major push against Al Shabaab on July 17 and inter-communal violence in the Northern Rift Valley in Kenya increased.

Since May, conflict in South Sudan and Yemen and political unrest in Burundi have resulted in the majority of new refugees in the region, with almost 188,000 refugees seeking international protection in neighboring countries during the period May - September. These crises also account for the majority of internally displaced persons in the region. According to UNHCR estimates, an additional 184,000 may become refugees in the region by the end of the year if the rate of displacement increases compared to the previous quarter. Recently, the number of South Sudanese seeking refuge in neighbouring countries has fallen, even though violence and violations of the ceasefire continue to be reported inside the country. The number of Burundian refugees fleeing the country has stagnated, but the situation inside Burundi remains tense. Prevailing insecurity, arbitrary arrests, violations of human rights continue to prevent voluntary returns at scale. While conflict related displacement slowed down, there has not yet been a decisive change in conflict outlook and resurgence in conflict remains a real possibility

3 . New economic shocks continue to affect the most vulnerable and reduce their capacity to cope. Since May, global oil prices have declined by 25 per cent, affecting oildependent South Sudan. Tax revenue and donor funding is declining in Burundi. Disruption of trade in Yemen has resulted in rising prices of food and fuel, further affecting already fragile communities and market conditions.
According to WFP VAM the cost of the minimum food basket increased severely (>10%) during Q3-2015 in Tanzania. High increases (5–10%) were seen in Ethiopia and Kenya. Price spikes, as monitored by ALPS (Alert for Price Spikes), are evident in 16 countries, including in South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen. These spikes indicate crisis levels for at least one of the two most important staples in the country, including cassava meal, maize, millet, rice, wheat and sorghum. Disruption of remittances, which are a lifeline for an estimated 40 per cent of the Somali population, continues to be a concern as financial anti-terrorism regulation has led to the closure of bank accounts of an increasing number of money transfer organizations that had facilitated the transfer of an estimated US$1.2-$1.5 billion annually in remittances. According to a survey conducted by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) of FAO a large proportion of Somalia households that received remittances, reported that their remittance receipts have declined over the past six months.

II . Challenges

The ability of the humanitarian community to meet growing needs is increasingly constrained by two factors:

1 . Restricted humanitarian access: Many areas of the region remain hard-to-reach or inaccessible due to a combination of insecurity in northern Kenya, Sudan and Somalia (where the rate of attacks compared to number of staff on the ground is the highest), and notably in South Sudan, where the number of humanitarian workers who have been killed since the start of the conflict in 2013 now stands at 34), bureaucratic impediments (such as restrictive legislation in Sudan, Kenya, South Sudan and Burundi) and logistical constraints.

2 . Underfunding: Humanitarian requirements for the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa now exceed $5.7 billion and are set to increase further in 2016, yet funding stands at only 43 per cent funded. The reasons for increased requirements include rising refugee caseloads, rising food insecurity and malnutrition due to increased drought conditions and increased internal displacement. In Ethiopia, the needs identified during the mid-year review, in-creased further following a rapid assessment in September and are expected to continue to increase. The Burundi regional refugee appeal was adjusted upward from $207 million to $306 million as the projected number of refugees increased from 230,000 to 320,000 by the end of December. Regionally, the shortage of funds for refugee operations is having a tangible effect on the nutrition situation: analysis shows that the nutrition situation of “new arrivals” is actually more stable than the older caseload, where there are emergency threshold nutrition rates (15 per cent Global Acute Malnutrition - GAM) in camps in east Sudan, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

III . Recommended actions

1 . Humanitarian partners should step-up preparedness actions, put in place up-to-date and evidence-based and costed national response plans, which are operationally relevant, including funding requirements for preparedness and initial response. Clear and consistent messaging regarding the impact of El Nino is crucial. Immediate scaling up preventive and curative nutrition programmes targeting both the moderate and severely malnourished.
Regional coordination will continue to be critical to allow for good practice and information sharing between states but also to address cross-border aspects of preparedness and response, such as displacement, spread of human and animal diseases and humanitarian access issue.

2 . In those areas where El Niño is expected to lead to drought (i) strengthening surveillance of indicators of food insecurity, livestock deaths, malnutrition, health and WASH, (ii) ensuring assessments of El Niño take into consideration concurrent shocks (El Niño often coincides with economic shocks affecting the most vulnerable) (iii) informing communities in the most at-risk areas through mass communication campaign about the increased risks, and priority prevention measures.

3 . In those areas where El Nino is expected to lead to above average rainfall, communities should be encouraged to maximize production through the timely provision of appropriate agricultural inputs, increased cropping acreages, water harvesting and use, rangeland restoration, and other livelihood promotion activities. In flood prone areas, sensitization of communities, building and/ or repairing infrastructure that would reduce the impact of (e.g. water harvesting and soil conservation infrastructure), capacity building on prevention of postharvest losses and advocacy for replenishment of community and national grain reserves are essential. In addition, national Rift Valley Fever task forces should be activated, surveillance and awareness intensified (vector and disease), and immediate vaccination begun for cattle in all Rift Valley Fever-prone areas.

4 . National counterparts and development partners should step efforts to reduce the risks and mitigate the impacts El Nino. Adopt a crisis modifier approach with States and donors reviewing options to reprogramme existing development funding for priority activities that build the resilience of people to shocks (namely livelihood protection/diversification e.g. livestock destocking, fodder, seed inputs, cash etc.).

5 . Donors should bring forward funding assigned for 2016, where possible, and reviewing options to reprogramme existing funding for priority humanitarian needs and allocating additional resources to cover funding gaps.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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