Significant populations continue to face large gaps in their basic food needs
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
- After the expiration of a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire from October 19-22, fighting and airstrikes continue across Yemen. According to a recent UN OCHA bulletin, areas with intense conflict include Al Jawf, Amran, Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Lahij, Ma’rib, Sa’dah, Sana’a, and Ta’izz governorates.
- As of August/September 2016, the Task Force on Population Movement reports that there were approximately 2,200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in Yemen, with the highest number of IDPs residing in Hajjah (485,000 persons) and Ta’izz (427,000 persons). The majority of IDP households are residing with host families or in rental housing. Reports from key informants in areas with large IDP populations (ex. Hajjah) indicate that many host communities are struggling with the additional burdens of hosting these displaced populations, as their limited resources are currently overstretched.
- Yemen’s foreign reserves have been rapidly depleting and were estimated by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation to be approximately 987 million USD in September 2016, down from 4.7 billion in 2014 (Figure 1). As a result of this decline, the Central Bank has been unable to pay all government salaries, has ended lines of credit at the official exchange rate for fuel, rice, and sugar imports, and has readjusted its official exchange rate to 250 YER/USD in April 2016, compared to 215 YER/USD previously. On parallel markets, the exchange rate is much higher, varying from one location to another but estimated to be around 300 YER/USD, according to WFP’s October 2016 market bulletin. The Central Bank has also recently been relocated from the Houthi controlled capital, Sana’a, to the southern city of Aden.
- Imports are vital for food security in Yemen as over 90 percent of Yemen’s cereal supplies are imported from international markets in a typical year (FAOSTAT). According to data from FleetMon, there has been a normalization in the number of unique bulk ship arrivals in Yemen (a proxy for food imports) compared to pre-conflict levels, with 18 ships arriving on average between July and September, compared to an average of 14 ships per month during the 2014 year. However, despite this normalization, food import data from the Logistics Cluster, UN COMTRADE, and UNVIM all suggest a downward trend in food import levels during the 2016 year (Table 1). The levels of informal food flows across land borders is unknown although WFP’s October bulletin reports that these trade flows could be contributing to the price stability for key staple foods observed throughout the country at this time.
- The Central Bank of Yemen has historically supported food and fuel imports by providing private import companies with lines of credit and access to foreign exchange at the official rate. According to recently published data, the Central Bank financed, on average, the importation of 782 million USD worth of wheat per year between 2013 and 2015, as well as 279 million USD worth of wheat between January and June 2016. While it is unclear whether the Central Bank has the ability to continue supporting wheat imports through the end of the year (some informal reports suggest that this support may have already ended), should its support continue at current levels, the Central Bank would likely finance roughly 558 million USD of wheat imports during the entire 2016 year, which is well below previous years’ levels.
- Estimates from FAO indicate that Yemen requires approximately 233,000 to 250,000 MT of wheat each month. As of September 2016, in-country commercial wheat grain stocks are estimated to be approximately 749,000 MT. In the absence of additional imports from international markets or humanitarian assistance, these stocks would likely meet local requirements for somewhere between three to four months.
INTERNAL TRADE AND MARKET FUNCTIONING
- According to the Logistics Cluster’s October 23, 2016 Access Constraints Map, current road conditions vary across Yemen from “open” to “difficult to access” and “closed”. Areas where roads are currently closed include southwest (Lahij and Ta’izz governorates), northwest (Al Jawf, Amran, Hajjah, Sa’dah, Sana’a, and Ma’rib governorates), and central (Shabwah governorate) areas. Although the status of access to some areas has evolved over the past two months, many areas with difficult access identified by the Logistics Cluster are the same as those identified by traders during FEWS NET’s recent rapid assessment in August 2016 (Figure 2). During FEWS NET’s assessment, many interviewed staple food traders reported that while they are able to move goods to markets, challenges included higher transportation costs (relating to security measures, high fuel prices, and bribes at checkpoints and to armed groups), and increased inspection processes.
- FEWS NET’s August 2016 rapid assessment also found variations in market functioning throughout the country, although the only market where significant disruptions were reported was in Al Mahwit governorate (Figure 3).
- Wheat flour was either “plentiful” or “somewhat available” at all surveyed governorates in August 2016, according to FEWS NET’s rapid assessment (Figure 4). More recent data from WFP’s October 2016 market bulletin indicates that approximately a quarter of monitored markets reported that wheat flour was “available”, while roughly half reported “sparsely available” supplies and the rest reporting “widely available” supplies. Socotra was the only governorate reporting “mostly not available” supplies due to recent rough seas that limited shipments. The WFP report also suggests that food availability at monitored markets has declined slightly over the past three months with numerous markets declining from “available” to “widely available” between September and October 2016.
- Unlike wheat flour, the availability of fuels (diesel, gasoline, and cooking oil) has been low on many markets. According to FEWS NET’s August rapid assessment, fuel availability was either “somewhat limited” or “very limited” in Sa’dah (diesel and cooking oil), Al Mahwit (diesel and gasoline), Ad Dali’ (diesel, gasoline, cooking oil), Aden (diesel) and Al Bayda’ (cooking oil). The only governorates were all three fuels were available at “plentiful” levels were Al Hudaydah and Ibb. Additionally fuel stations in Ta’izz were reportedly closed and thus, only fuel from black market sources were available in this governorate. This is in line with WFP’s October bulletin that suggested that most markets had “sparsely available” supplies of fuel.
- High food prices continue to limit household food access through market purchase throughout the country. According to WFP price data for October, wheat flour prices generally remained above pre-conflict February 2015 levels (on average, +24 percent) but were either stable or fell compared to September 2016 levels (Figure 5). An exception, however, are the governorates of Ad Dali’, Al Bayda’, and Socotra where wheat flour prices increased by 11, 5, and 5 percent during the past month. Wheat flour prices in Ta’izz and Shabwah remain particularly elevated compared to the rest of the country at 51 percent and 47 percent, respectively, above the national average.
- Despite indications of limited availability in many areas, fuel prices at most markets were either stable or in decline between September and October 2016 but remained above pre-conflict levels (national average: diesel (+31 percent), gasoline (+26 percent)). The highest fuel prices in the country were observed in the following governorates: Socotra for cooking oil, Ta’izz and Sa’dah for gasoline, and Ta’izz for diesel.
- According to FEWS NET’s most recent rapid assessment, household incomes are down significantly compared to pre-conflict levels (Table 2), limiting purchasing power and food access through market purchase. Additionally, the same assessment found that difficulties accessing international remittances have increased compared to past months, including delays, lack of currency, closed offices, and banks often being unwilling to process remittances at official exchange rates. Key informant reports also indicate that some government salaries have not been paid for several months.
- Reports from a variety of organizations (including FEWS NET’s rapid assessment) suggest that agricultural activities and related labor activities are down as high fuel prices and scarcities have limited irrigation agriculture. According to FSIS, 2016 agricultural production for cereals (sorghum, maize, millet, wheat, and barley) is likely to be similar to 2015 levels but down compared to 2014 levels by between 25 and 35 percent, depending on the crop. Since poor households frequently own very little land, labor work is an important income source for many households. While information on current labor opportunities is limited, price data from CARE International suggests that August 2016 daily wages for unskilled labor has remained stable compared to pre-conflict levels in Aden but had declined moderately in Amran (-16 percent) and Hajjah (-5 percent).
- In many areas, the sale of livestock, particularly small ruminants and chickens, are also important income sources. While information on these activities are limited, data from FSIS suggest that prices for live goats, sheep, and chickens have generally increased or been stable across monitored markets between January 2016 and October 2016, which would be favorable for households selling animals. Additionally, FEWS NET’s rapid assessment in August 2016 found mixed reports about whether livestock supplies on local markets had increased, which could have been suggestive of distressed sales had this been observed.
- According to 2004 estimates, the Yemeni fishing industry employs approximately 60,000 to 70,000 artisanal fishermen. Estimates from FAO/FSIS indicates that the number of fisherman in Yemen has declined by approximately 50 percent, due to the combined effects of strong winds and storms, conflict, atypically high fuel prices, and reduced access to cold storage facilities. FAO/FSIS also reports that fishing activities have completely stopped in coastal areas of Ta’izz. Similar reports that fishing activities have ended have also come from key informants along southern coastal areas of Al Hudaydah. This issue, in particular, has been flagged by multiple partners as a potential contributing factor to very poor food consumption and nutritional outcomes observed in the districts of Al Khawkhah and Al Tuhayta in Al Hudaydah governorate. However, according to FSIS price data for Baghta fish – a cheap variety of fish – there are no clear changes in prices since December 2015 that would suggest a major shock in the availability of fish on local markets.
- FEWS NET’s August 2016 rapid assessment found that across surveyed governorates, humanitarian assistance was becoming an increasingly important source of income compared to before the conflict, and FEWS NET’s analyses suggest that large-scale food assistance programs are likely playing an important role in preventing deteriorating food security outcomes in many areas. On average, WFP distributed 36,045 MT of food assistance to 3.37 million people per month during the months of June, July, and September 2016. The largest number of beneficiaries during these three months were located in the governorates of Ta’izz (562,000 people), Hajjah (311,000 people) and Amanat Al Asimah (262,000). FEWS NET’s analyses also suggest that food assistance programs from WFP are likely changing the IPC phase classification in the governorates of Ad Dali’, Amran, Hajjah, Lahij, Sa’dah, and Shabwah.
- In addition to WFP, many other actors (NGOs, Middle East/Gulf Countries, etc.) are running food distribution or cash transfer programs throughout the country. As the magnitude of this assistance is not entirely known at this time, this assistance is not included in FEWS NET’s analysis. However, given these programs, the true impacts of humanitarian assistance are likely larger than what is shown on FEWS NET’s maps.
ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE AND WATER/CHOLERA OUTBREAK
- The ongoing conflict in Yemen limited household access to health facilities and clean water in many areas, with negative implications for child health and nutrition. For example, according to the World Health Organization’s recent Health Resources Availability Mapping System assessment, only 45 percent of health facilities are fully functioning, while an additional 38 percent are partially functioning and 17 percent are closed. Additionally, FEWS NET’s rapid assessment conducted in August 2016 found that many surveyed households are drinking water from streams, springs, rainwater, and sabeel water tanks (free water provided by charitable organizations or individuals) as high fuel prices have driven up the price of safer, filtered water. Multiple key informants interviewed by FEWS NET also reported that poor access to clean water is likely one of multiple drivers contributing to elevated levels of acute malnutrition currently observed in coastal areas of Al Hudaydah.
- These health, water, and sanitation issues are likely contributing factors to the ongoing cholera outbreak in Yemen, which was announced by the Ministry of Public Health and Population on October 7th. As of November 13, WHO reports that there have been 86 confirmed and 4,119 suspected cases of cholera in Aden, Ad Dali’, Al Bayda’, Al Hudaydah, Amran, Hajjah, Ibb, Lahij, Sana’a City, Sana’a, and Ta’izz.
WFP’S MVAM SURVEYS
- Between July and September 2016, WFP’s mVAM surveys found that, on average, more than 20 percent of households reported poor food consumption scores in eleven governorates (Ad Dali’, Al Bayda’, Al Jawf, Al Mahwit, Hajjah, Lahij, Ma’rib Sana’a, Shabwah, Raymah, and Ta’izz) (Figure 6). Only one governorate, Al Maharah, saw more than 80 percent of the population reporting acceptable food consumption. WFP’s mVAM report from September also indicates that a higher proportion of IDP respondent reported poor food consumption in comparison to non-displaced populations. Preliminary October data suggests an increase in the percentage of households reporting poor food consumption between September and October, with the exception of Al Maharah, Hadramaut, Ma’rib, and Ta’izz (where the percentage decreased) and Al Jawf, Hajjah, and Sa’dah (where the percentage was stable).
- On average during the months of July, August and September 2016, between 22 and 61 percent of respondents in all governorates reported a reduced coping strategies index (rCSI) of over 20, roughly in line with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher food insecurity (Figure 7). The highest percentages of respondents with a rCSI of over 20 were observed in Al Jawf (51 percent), Al Mahwit (54 percent), Amran (59 percent), Dhamar (58 percent), Hajjah (61 percent), Ibb (51 percent), and Ta’izz (52 percent). The lowest percentages were reported in Aden (27 percent) and Al Maharah (22 percent).
- Recent data on nutritional outcomes in Yemen is limited. According to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation’s October 2016 Yemen Socio-Economic Update, a recent UNICEF SMART survey conducted in August 2016 in Ad Dali’ found a global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence of 14 percent. While elevated, this rate is not statistically different from the results of a November/December 2011 assessment, which found a GAM prevalence of 12.1 percent (95 percent CI: 9.2 – 15.8 percent) in the governorate. However, according data on severe acute malnutrition (SAM) admissions to community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) programs from January 2014 to August 2016, admissions have been on an upward trend, though trends are mixed at the governorate level. More specifically, across most governorates, there has been an increase in admissions, with the exception of Abyan, Hadramaut, Lahij, Sa’dah, and Tai’zz where cases have been declining and in Al Jawf and Raymah where they have been stable. The largest number of SAM admissions cases, both before and after the start of conflict, have been in Al Hudaydah. Additional information, however, is needed to tease out how the availability of treatment programs (ex. the opening or closing of programs/clinics) could have contributed to these observed trends.
CURRENT FOOD SECURITY OUTCOMES
- A major food security emergency continues in Yemen. Currently, approximately seven to ten million people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes or higher and roughly one-quarter of this population, or 25 percent, are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Additionally, data is very limited but it is possible that some populations are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in areas where the impacts of conflict on livelihoods and humanitarian access have been most severe.
- In Ta’izz governorate, as well as southern coastal areas of Al Hudaydah, at least 20 percent of households are estimated to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). In these areas, poor households and the displaced are facing large food consumption gaps due to severe conflict-related disruptions to their livelihoods. Elevated levels of acute malnutrition and excess mortality are also likely. In many other western governorates, populations are also in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity although these populations are not large enough to drive an Emergency (IPC Phase 4) area classification.
- Large-scale humanitarian assistance is currently ongoing in Yemen and FEWS NET estimates that it currently playing an important role in preventing worse food security outcomes in many areas. More specifically, FEWS NET estimates that in Ad Dali’, Amran, Hajjah, Lahij, Sa’dah, and Shabwah, current food security outcomes would have been at least one phase higher in the absence of ongoing food assistance provided by the World Food Programme.
- In the governorates of Hadramaut and Al Mahrah, the impacts of conflict on household livelihoods have been less severe than in western areas. As a result, based on currently available food security indicator data and information on contributing factors influencing food availability and access, FEWS NET estimates that poor households in these two governorates are minimally meeting their basic food needs but may not be able to afford essential non-food expenditures, in line with Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
The most likely scenario for the October 2016 to May 2017 period is based on the following national level assumptions:
- Conflict: For the purpose of this most-likely scenario, FEWS NET assumes that fighting and airstrikes will continue at current levels, which will maintain IDP population at high levels, similar to those currently being observed.
- Economy: For the mostly likely scenario, FEWS assumes that the current macroeconomic crisis will continue. More specifically:
- Central Bank: The Central Bank’s current split in management will continue. The Central Bank will also not receive any major funding from external donors during the scenario period. The Central Bank is not expected to continue to provide credit for importation.
- Oil exports: Although media reports indicate that oil production and exports may have recently started up again at low levels, oil exports will not return to pre-conflict levels.
- Foreign reserves: Given the assumptions of significantly reduced oil exports and no additional funding from external donors, foreign reserves within the country will continue to decline compared to current levels.
- Exchange rate: Given the decline in foreign reserves, the Central Bank is not expected to be able to maintain the official exchange rate at its current 250 YER/USD level. Consequently, a moderate depreciation of the Yemeni rial against the US dollar on both official and parallel markets is expected.
- Liquidity constraints: Liquidity constraints at banks within Yemen will continue to worsen and will limit general economic activities and complicate import activities.
- Staple food imports: FEWS NET assumes that at some point during the scenario period, Central Bank will no longer have the resources to continue providing wheat importers with lines of credit at the official exchange rate. While large traders will continue to find alternative methods of accessing foreign currency to continue operations, import levels will likely continue to decline and transaction costs associated with these imports will increase. Informal food flows across land borders will also continue at status quo levels but will be limited by civil insecurity in many border areas.
- Government salaries and the Social Welfare Fund: Similar to the current situation, many government employees will continue to not receive salaries due to the Central Bank’s lack of adequate financial resources. Similarly, the Social Welfare Fund will not start up again during the scenario period.
- Internal trade flows: Active fighting, damaged transportation infrastructure, high fuel prices, and additional security and transaction costs (ex. bribes at checkpoints) will continue to limit food trade flows within the country. In the absence of additional information about the evolution of conflict, FEWS NET assumes that areas where trade flows will be particularly constrained will be the same areas where roads are currently closed, as shown by the Logistics Cluster’s most recent access constraint map.
- Market demand: Demand from consumers will remain atypically low during the scenario period due to weak household purchasing power caused by below-average incomes.
- Wheat flour prices: Despite the expected decline in wheat import levels and increasing transaction costs for traders/importers, FEWS NET anticipates only moderate price increases compared to current levels during the scenario period given the impacts of below-average incomes on household purchasing power and market demand. Prices will remain above pre-conflict levels, however, through the scenario period.
- Agricultural production: Depending on the zone, many agricultural households will harvest cereals at times between November 2016 and June 2016. Key periods of production will include November and December for the second season harvests of sorghum and coffee and June for the first season harvest of wheat, millet, and sorghum. In many areas, there will also be a vegetable and fruit harvest during the first quarter of 2016. However, production will likely be below average due to a lack of availability and/or access to inputs and limited access to fields in conflict zones. Related agricultural labor opportunities will also be atypically low. Additionally, according to FAO, locusts will likely be present in Ma’rib, Shabwah, Hadramaut, and the coastal plains (FAO) and in these localized areas, locust-related damages will reduce crop production. Qat production, however, will continue to be relatively average.
- Remittances: Although remittance service offices will remain open in most urban areas, significant difficulties (ex. delays, closed offices, lack of liquidity) will limit the ability of households to receive remittances from abroad. This will result in below-average incomes from this source.
- Fishing: Fishing activities along coastal areas will increase seasonally starting in March/April but will remain well below average due to high fuel prices and civil insecurity. On the Gulf of Aden coast, lobstering will also follow seasonal trends, peaking between October and December, declining between January and May, and then stopping in June.
- Incomes from other sources: The deteriorating macroeconomic situation and conflict will disrupt household livelihoods across much of the country, resulting in below-average household incomes. The largest declines in incomes will be amongst IDP populations and households residing in intense conflict zones, such as Ta’izz.
- Nutrition: Given expected food consumption gaps during the scenario period, acute malnutrition is expected to rise and remain above seasonally normal levels across much of the country. Based on historically data, SAM admissions to treatment programs are usually at their highest levels sometime between November and January. Excess mortality is expected in worst affected areas.
- Humanitarian assistance: FEWS NET assumes that cereal and pulse distributions by WFP will continue through December 2016. However, given an absence of information on planned, funded, and likely humanitarian assistance data for the 2017 year, continued assistance is not assumed for the second half of the scenario period.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
- Given that food security data is very limited and both the security and macroeconomic situation are uncertain, future food security outcomes in Yemen are difficult to project. However, under the assumption that import levels will continue to decline, causing higher food prices, FEWS NET expects that household purchasing power will deteriorate during the scenario period. This, along with very limited capacity to cope as many households have lost or depleted their assets over the past year, will likely drive a continuation of severe levels of food insecurity for many poor households between October and May 2017. During the remainder of 2016, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in Ta’izz and southern coastal areas of Al Hudaydah. Additionally, smaller populations of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) are expected in other governorates, particularly amongst IDP populations and poor households in active conflict zones. Amongst these populations, large food consumption gaps, elevated levels of acute malnutrition, and excess child mortality are expected.
- Given that WFP’s humanitarian assistance for the period of January and May 2017 has not yet been confirmed as planned, funded, and likely and as such, continued assistance is not assumed for the second half of the scenario period. In the absence of continued assistance, FEWS NET expects that food security outcomes would deteriorate in many other governorates (Ad Dali’, Amran, Hajjah, Lahij, Sa’dah, and Shabwah) to Emergency (IPC Phase 4). IDP populations would continue to face some of the most severe outcomes.
- Although information is limited, it is possible that some worst affected populations could face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Although it is difficult to project where these populations could be located, food security outcomes of this magnitude would be most likely in the western half of the country in localized areas with very poor humanitarian access and amongst populations whose livelihoods have been severely constrained by conflict.
For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
  The United Nations Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) monitors imports into the following ports: Port Saleef, Al Mokha, Ras Isa, and Hudaydah.
 WFP rates local commodity availability from, in order of highest to lowest, “available”, “widely available”, “sparsely available”, “mostly not available”, and “not available.”
 The national average is based on data from six markets where price data is available prior to February 2015: Aden, Al Hudaydah, Amran, Hajjah, Sa’dah and Sana’a.
 Pre-conflict price data is not available for livestock.
 August 2016 distribution data was not available at the time of this analysis. For this reason, FEWS NET’s humanitarian assistance analysis is based on per month average distribution levels for June, July, and September 2016.
 FEWS NET’s criteria for humanitarian assistance possibly changing the area classification of a zone are: 1) humanitarian assistance is reaching at least 50 percent of FEWS NET’s population of concern, and 2) humanitarian assistance covers at least 20 percent of kcal requirements (or the cash equivalent) for beneficiary households.
 Since August 2015, WFP has been collecting food consumption score (FCS) and reduced coping strategies index (rCSI) data through cell phone-based surveys in Yemen. Cell phone based surveys are not statistically significant and are likely biased towards better-off and urban populations who have access to cell phones. However, the size of this bias is unknown.
 WFP defines “Poor” food consumption in Yemen as a food consumption score of less than 28. A household with a food consumption score of 28 may be consuming cereals, vegetables, oil and sugar every day. Therefore, while a score of less than 28 is likely to indicate a poor quality diet, it is more difficult to assess whether “Poor” food consumption, as defined, is associated with an inadequate quantity of food given that three of these food groups provide substantial energy (kcal). Therefore, an analysis of household level food deficits, the key input to IPC classification of acute food insecurity, should consider a range of other data in addition to food consumption scores.
About Scenario Development
To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.
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