IGAD, FAO warn of looming food insecurity due to forecasted rainfall deficits

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The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has foreseen a high risk of worsening food insecurity in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda if forecasted rainfall deficits materialize.

The organizations, through the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG);a regional platform providing an up-to-date food security and nutrition situation analysis (early warning) and offering a forum to build consensus on critical issues facing policy and interventions is thus urging immediate and coordinated planning by governments, donors and all concerned stakeholders to respond to the potentially deteriorating food security and nutrition situation.

The working group recommends;

  • Activation of early actions focusing on strengthening rural agricultural livelihoods (e.g. animal feed, water, vaccinations, market support) in worst-affected areas to mitigate the likely food security impacts of an upcoming prolonged and severe lean season.
  • Release of drought-related contingency funding to enable timely early actions and response;
  • Preposition required goods for emergency response (e.g. food, nutrition support, water, medical supplies etc.) in advance of the expected peak in needs between June and October.
  • Plan for recovery support to cropping households in advance of next cropping season (e.g. short/Deyr rains).
  • Map current and planned interventions to ensure a more coordinated response and strengthen the existing food security information systems and coordination.
  • Strengthen programs that ensure peaceful livestock migration and reduce tensions between transhumant pastoralists and host communities in advance of likely atypical livestock movements.
  • Nutrition treatment supplies need to be sufficiently prepositioned to avoid a stock-out and nutrition prevention activities can include support to animal fodder, water and health, cash/in-kind food support for vulnerable households or nutritious products to protect those most at risk of malnutrition.
  • Regular monitoring of developments using both remote sensing and joint field rapid assessments in worst-affected areas.

According to official records, around 23.4 million people are currently food insecure in the Greater Horn of Africa. This includes 10.7 million people across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Karamoja region in Uganda alone. Although the food insecure population is lower than numbers observed during the drought of 2017 (15.3 million people).

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The delay in the start of the March to May long rains, coupled with forecasted rainfall deficits are building on already dry conditions due to poor October to December rains over some parts of the Greater Horn of Africa. The poor performance of the past season’s short rains already led to below-average crop production and deteriorating pastures in some agro-pastoral and marginal mixed farming areas.

IGAD Executive Secretary, H.E Amb (Eng) Mahboub Maalim shares a light moment with Cyril Ferrand, FAO Team leader (resilience)for East Africa.

Analyses show that rainfall levels through mid-April will likely be amongst the driest on record (since 1981) in some areas, particularly in southern Kenya, much of Somalia, Somali region of Ethiopia, and localized areas of Uganda. Rainfall predictions for the remaining season (15 April to 31 May) suggest that parts of the region will still receive below average rainfall. In particular, eastern Kenya, eastern Uganda, central and eastern Somalia and western Ethiopia.

If the forecasted rainfall deficits materialize in April and May, this would lead to an atypical increase in food insecurity and livestock movement, likely to peak from June to October. Northeastern Kenya, south and central Somalia and south and eastern Ethiopia would likely experience a rapid decline in pastoral conditions.

Dry conditions and high temperatures, between January and March, have already led to deterioration in pastures and water availability in these areas, affecting livestock body conditions, reducing milk production, and driving pastoralists to keep their livestock in dry season grazing areas for a prolonged period, stressing limited pastoral resources and increasing the risk of conflict in receiving areas.

The Uganda-Kenya border where pastoral conditions are expected to remain acceptable could suffer from possible competition over resource and may result in localized conflicts. Crop production would also be below average in marginal agricultural areas of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. This, along with the potential of lower than average production of key regional players such as Uganda and Tanzania, could cause price increases and reduce access of poor households to basic food supplies.

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The rains during the remainder of April will be a key-determining factor for seasonal performance and future food security. However, should forecasted below-average rains materialize, this would be the second consecutive poor rainy season across many areas. Additionally, in pastoral areas, the widespread nature of the rainfall deficits could limit opportunities for livestock migration. Under this scenario, worsening food insecurity and nutrition would be likely in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda, with a peak between June and October and highest severity in worst-affected Kenya and Somalia.

Current 2019 projections show a worrying regional nutrition outlook, which is expected to worsen in the coming months should rainfall deficits materialize. 2.76 million children under five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in Ethiopia, 903,086 in Somalia and an estimated 541 309 in Kenya. In total, over 4 million children are predicted to require support for acute malnutrition. This does not include the additional 3 million pregnant and breastfeeding women nor the potential additional numbers if robust prevention is not actively implemented.

Dr Guleid Artan, Director of ICPAC responds to concerns during the press conference on the food crisis in the greater horn of Africa at a Nairobi hotel on 17th April 2019.

Experience in delivering livelihood-based early actions in the Horn of Africa during the crisis of 2016/17, proved that 1 USD invested in early actions saved up to 9 USD required for humanitarian response.

The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group will monitor closely the situation and provide climate updates on a 10-day basis, as well as monthly overall food security updates.

Note: With the exception of Ethiopia, the food insecure population figure represents population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher. Sources of data are FSNAU (Somalia), the 2019 short rains assessment (Kenya), the 2019 Ethiopia HRP, and the most recent IPC Uganda analysis.

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The FNSWG has served regional governments, donors, and non-governmental agencies since the early 2000’s. Current membership includes approximately 80 organizations (IGAD, UN agencies, NGOs, donors and research institutions) who contribute to the operation and content of the working group and its nutrition, markets, food security information, livestock and pastoralist subgroups.

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