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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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    Africa’s East Humanitarian needs remain severe despite improved rains throughout the Horn of Africa in April 2023.

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    Despite a favourable start to the March to May rains over much of the Horn of Africa, which has helped to ease drought conditions, the East African region continues to face a large-scale humanitarian crisis characterised by extensive areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4), the persistence of Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, and pockets of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    The continuation of high levels of acute food insecurity across East Africa is primarily due to three years of drought, which has eroded livelihoods and assets; four years of flooding in South Sudan; episodic or protracted conflict throughout the region; and severe macroeconomic conditions. More recently, despite a generally favourable start to the Gu/Genna rains, spatial and temporal differences have hampered recovery in several Horn areas.

    Though humanitarian assistance needs remain outpaced by the scale and severity of need, sustained high levels of food assistance are preventing more extreme outcomes in southern and central Somalia and parts of southern and southeastern pastoral Ethiopia.

    In the Horn, the start of the 2023 long-rains/gu rains is supporting some improvement in pasture and water resources, as well as the start to land preparation and planting in agricultural areas, as the region slowly begins to recover from the historic five-season drought. However, the cumulative impacts of the shock – including consecutive below average crop harvests, massive declines in livestock herd sizes, and reduced availability of milk for consumption and sales – have significantly eroded households’ assets and coping capacity and continue to limit access to food and income. Additionally, flooding from the ongoing rainfall is reported to have caused the destruction of infrastructure, agricultural land, and crops in Somalia and Ethiopia and contributed to 70,000 livestock deaths in Ethiopia. Combined with persistent atypically high staple food prices, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes or worse remain widespread in Somalia, northern and eastern Kenya, and southern and southeastern Ethiopia. In addition, there are likely households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in southern and central Somalia, and levels of acute malnutrition and mortality remain elevated in many areas. The sustained provision of significant levels of humanitarian assistance remains critical to mitigating the severity of food consumption gaps, acute malnutrition, and mortality in the Horn.

    In northern Ethiopia, especially in Tigray, moderate economic recovery since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement in November 2022 is resulting in slight improvements in income-earning opportunities. However, access to food and income remains lower than pre-conflict levels due to high food prices and limited labor migration opportunities, as many people lack the means to travel. Overall, the cumulative impact of the 2020-2022 conflict, including the destruction of livelihood systems, continues to drive Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in Tigray. In the absence of humanitarian food assistance, poor households are likely to face widening consumption deficits or engage in severe coping strategies such as begging. Some woredas along Eritrea’s borders are partially inaccessible for humanitarian assistance due to insecurity caused by armed groups, constraining food access in these areas.

    In South Sudan, protracted and episodic conflict, successive years of severe flooding, and sustained poor macroeconomic conditions have deeply eroded household resilience resulting in sustained Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Greater Piobr Administrative Area, with some households likely experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in parts of Upper Nile and Jonglei. In the other areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are prevalent driven by episodic conflicts, deficit crop production and resultant early depletion of own-produced stocks, seasonal outmigration of livestock that has reduced milk and income access, high food prices, and general poor macroeconomic conditions. In Sudan, above-average 2022/23 crop production improved food access, but the cumulative impact of persistently poor macroeconomic conditions coupled with episodic conflict is sustaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the worst conflict-affected areas in South Darfur, West Kordofan, and Blue Nile states. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in Abyei Administrative Area, where recent inter-communal clashes continued disrupting livelihood activities and food access. Weak Sudanese currency and the high costs of production and transportation sustained atypically high staple food prices in the post-harvest period limiting food access among purchase-dependent households.

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