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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook Update

Red Sea ports re-open, but sustained imports needed to mitigate Famine risk

December 2017

December 2017 - January 2018

Yemen Phases 3 and 2

February - May 2018

Yemen Phases 3 and 2

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Not mapped
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Not mapped
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Not mapped
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Large populations in Yemen continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity, the latter of which is associated with increased acute malnutrition and an increased risk of excess mortality. IDP populations, poor households in conflict zones, and poor households in areas with very high levels of acute malnutrition are likely facing the most severe outcomes. 

  • In recent days, the Saudi-led coalition announced the re-opening of Hudaydah to commercial food and fuel imports. Heavy restrictions on imports through these ports since early November had resulted in sharp prices increases for fuel, and risked a deterioration in food security outcomes. Initial reports suggest commercial flows of food and fuel have increased in recent days, but sustained imports of essential goods is critically needed.

  • In the event a prolonged, sustained disruption to imports through Al Hudaydah and Salif ports were to occur in a worst-case scenario, Yemen would face a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), given that the other ports in Yemen have limited offload and storage capacity and that the potential for overland trade to offset the decline in maritime imports is extremely low. Even in the absence of additional disruptions, populations may begin to move into Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) as worst-affected households begin to exhaust their coping capacity. 

Current Situation

Food and fuel imports

  • On December 20, the Government of Saudi Arabia announced the Saudi-led coalition would allow commercial shipping of food and fuel to enter Yemen through Al Hudaydah ports for a period of 30 days. This announcement follows the coalition’s decision in early November to close all Yemeni ports, the subsequent decision to allow imports through Aden on November 13, and the partial re-opening of Hudaydah to humanitarian imports on November 23.
  • Following the December 20 announcement, commercial ship arrivals have reportedly increased in the ports of Hudaydah and Salif, with UNVIM confirming deliveries of food and fuel. Reports from ship tracking services suggest three bulk carriers have arrived into Salif port since December 20, already matching the three that arrived between November 4 and December 20.

Fuel availability and prices

  • Fuel availability reportedly decreased significantly on markets following the closure of the ports, according to the Cash and Markets Working Group (CMWG). Informal reports attribute the reduction in availability to illegal hoarding for subsequent sale at black market prices. Limited fuel availability is reported to have shut down fuel-reliant water supply systems in at least five major cities (Al Mahwit, Dhamar, Lahj, Shabam, and Ta’izz), according to WASH cluster partners. Previously, FEWS NET rapid assessment conducted in October had suggested that all three major fuels (diesel, gasoline, cooking oil) were somewhat available in Aden, Al Hudaydah, Ibb, and Ta’izz, and scarce or somewhat scarce in Ad Dali, Al Bayda, Al Mahwit, Lahj, and Sa’ada. In Abyan, diesel and gasoline were scarce, while cooking gas was somewhat available.
  • Following the closure of Yemen’s ports in early November, prices for fuel increased sharply (Figure 1). On average, prices for petrol and diesel increased by approximately one-third compared to October 2017 levels, according to WFP price data.  Increases varied across individual markets, but were highest in Al Ma’afer (Taizz), Amran, Al Hudaydah, and Hajjah. Persistent, severe prices increases for fuel could result in significant impacts on staple food prices as most food is shipped overland from the ports to retail markets.

Wheat flour availability and prices

  • As of November 1st, the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster estimated in-country stocks of wheat, wheat grain, and rice at approximately 1.1 million MT. In the absence of additional imports, these stocks would be expected to last approximately three to four months, although given the recent decision to allow commercial imports through Hudaydah, additional supply is expected.
  • In the weeks following the blockade, the availability of wheat flour on markets was reported to have remained the same or declined somewhat compared October 2017. Based on the information available, slight reductions in availability were reported in Aden, Sana’a, Sa’ada, and Taizz. FEWS NET rapid assessments in October 2017 had indicated that wheat flour was considered available in Abyan, Aden, Al Hudaydah, Al Mahwit and Lahij, somewhat available in Ad Dali, Ibb, Sa’ada, and Ta’izz, and somewhat scarce in Al Bayda.
  • Wheat flour prices have generally increased between October and November 2017. WFP and the FSIS-FSTS reported slight increases of eight to 13 percent in the average retail price for imported wheat between October and the first half of November. The size of the increases varied across markets, but were highest in Aden, Al Hudaydah, Amran, and Sana’a (Figure 2).

Macroeconomic conditions

  • The macroeconomic situation in Yemen continues to worsen. WFP reports that the national average exchange rate deteriorated from 390 YER/USD in October to 419 YER/USD during the first half of November 2017. The weakest exchange rates were reported in Aden, Al Mahra, Lahj, Sa’ada, and Sana’a City governorates. Data collected by FEWS NET in Sana’a City suggested that the exchange rate declined from 415 YER/USD in early November to 450 YER/USD in late December.

Humanitarian assistance

  • Large-scale humanitarian assistance continues to play an important role in reducing the severity of food security outcomes among some populations in Yemen, despite limited funding, recent limitations on imports, and increased conflict. In October and November, WFP reached approximately 7 and 6.5 million people, respectively, with emergency food assistance. In addition to WFP, local and international actors continue to implement food distribution or cash transfer programs throughout the country. In October, a total of 7.7 million people received emergency food assistance (general food assistance and cash/voucher transfers) across 20 governorates in Yemen.
  • A data collection initiative conducted by the Humanitarian Access Working Group during October 15-31 suggests that the biggest access impediment for the humanitarian community is the restriction of movement (of personnel and goods) into and within Yemen. Half of the incident-based access impediments reported fall in the conflict-affected governorates of Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Sa’ada, Sana’a, and Ta’izz.

Cholera and diphtheria outbreaks

  • A major cholera outbreak continues in all of Yemen’s governorates except Socotra, with WHO reporting more than one million suspected cases by late December 2017. The national number of new cases per week has been decreasing for 14 consecutive weeks. However, as current fuel shortages are severely limiting water availability, and as cholera is linked to poor water sanitation and hygiene, further increases in the cholera caseload are possible.
  • In addition, WHO reports that cases of diphtheria, a preventable and highly infectious respiratory disease, are increasing. Between mid-August and mid-December, 283 diagnosed cases and 34 related deaths have been reported. Most diphtheria cases and deaths have been reported in Ibb governorate, but the outbreak is spreading quickly and already affecting 15 governorates, mainly due to low vaccination rates and poor access to medical care. Diphtheria has a higher fatality rate than cholera, especially among children under five years of age, where as many as two in five diphtheria cases end in death.

Updated Assumptions

The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of October 2017 to May 2018. However, the following assumptions have been updated:

  • Conflict: FEWS NET assumes that recent increases in conflict will be maintained and will drive modest increases in displacement during the scenario period.
  • Cholera and diphtheria: Ongoing fuel shortages will continue to limit the availability of clean water, as well as the functioning and delivery of vaccines and medical supplies to health centers and hospitals around the country. As a result, the spread of cholera and diphtheria is expected to continue through the scenario period.
  • Humanitarian assistance: WFP has sufficient funds to continue providing in-kind humanitarian assistance until mid-May 2018 and commodity vouchers assistance until early February 2018. 

Projected Outcomes through May 2018

The ongoing food security emergency in western Yemen is likely to continue to drive very high assistance needs through at least May 2018. IDP populations and poor households in conflict zones will likely continue to face the most severe food security outcomes. Through May 2018, many areas of western Yemen will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!), as planned, funded, and likely humanitarian assistance continues to mitigate worse outcomes at the area level. Given that needs are significantly greater than current assistance programming, it is likely populations in some governorates are already facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes or worse, among whom increased levels of acute malnutrition are likely. Even in the absence of additional import disruptions, populations may begin to move into Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) as worst-affected households begin to exhaust their coping capacity. Meanwhile, in Al Mahrah governorate where on-the-ground fighting and airstrikes have been less intense than in western areas and household livelihoods and food consumption have been less impacted by fighting, food security outcomes are likely to remain in line with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

In the event a prolonged, sustained disruption to imports through Al Hudaydah and Salif ports were to occur in a worst-case scenario, Yemen would face a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), given that the other ports in Yemen have limited offload and storage capacity and that the potential for overland trade to offset the decline in maritime imports is extremely low. The prospect of increased conflict that could damage port facilities at Al Hudaydah and Salif ports is also very concerning. These ports are the entry point of about 70 percent of all food imports into Yemen. Given that imports by humanitarian actors likely make up less than one quarter of total formal cereal imports into Yemen, it is very unlikely that the humanitarian community or overland imports from neighboring countries would have the capacity to fill the very large import gaps that would exist in this scenario. 

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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