Drought Emergency in Somalia
Context: A joint statement by the U.N. FAO, OCHA, UNICEF, and WFP stated that nearly six million people in Somalia — roughly 40% of its population — are now facing extreme levels of food insecurity with pockets of famine conditions in certain areas.
- They sought an immediate injection of funds to scale up life-saving assistance in Somalia.
- As per the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit’s (FSNAU) estimates, 4.1 million people in Somalia would require urgent humanitarian assistance between February and June 2022.
How did Somalia reach this position?
- The country in the Horn of Africa has been struggling with a multi-season drought since late 2020.
- Somalia experiences two bouts of rainfall — between September/October and December in the Deyr season, and the Gu season between April and June.
- Rains in Somalia have ‘faltered’ for three consecutive seasons, with some areas experiencing it on as many as four occasions till date.
- The cumulative rainfall was 40-60% below average across most parts of southern, central, and adjacent parts of northern Somalia.
- This resulted in massive crop failures in central Somalia, below-average crop production in southern and north-western Somalia, and the third-lowest Dyer harvest since 1995 in southern Somalia.
- The ensuing drought has exposed Somalia to famine-like conditions accompanied by skyrocketing food prices and huge funding shortfalls.
- The harvest season led to increased migration in search of food, water, and pasture, spurring pressure and depletion of resources in less drought-affected areas
- Also, persistent insecurity, conflict, and unresolved political tensions, particularly in central and southern Somalia, accompanied by global supply and price shocks are exacerbating the food security situation.
What is the near-term outlook?
- Food security:
- If the upcoming March-April-May (MAM) rain season fails, this would lead to a historic four-season drought that would suppress critical food and income sources through mid-to-late 2022.
- Humanitarian assistance is presently mitigating the severity of food insecurity; however, taking into account the rise independent population, it could outpace current and planned assistance levels.
- Also, the impact on production and supply chains owing to the conflict in Ukraine could further push food prices upward.
- Poor pastoralists in Somalia are unable to cope with the rising costs of water and food and, in turn, keep their livestock in shape.
- With fewer livestock births expected in the current calendar year, reduced income from their sales, and low availability of milk for both adults and children, poor households would be subjected to large gaps in food consumption through mid-2022.
- This applies for agropastoral communities, too, in the event of an erratically distributed rainfall or conflict.
- Urban poor:
- Food consumption gaps could be the story for the urban poor as well, considering the slowdown in economic activities in urban areas and the increasing price of food and other essential items.
- The urban poor’s ability to absorb the impact of further rise in food prices is limited. As per its estimates, they presently spend 60-80% of their income on food.
- Population displacement:
- Worsening drought conditions and persistent food insecurity could lead to increased displacement from rural to urban areas and existing settlements through mid-2022, in case humanitarian assistance is not adequately scaled up.
- This would result in displaced people experiencing moderate to large consumption gaps through mid-2022.
- As per reports, more than 572,000 people have been displaced internally due to the drought between October 2021 and February 2022 — almost double the figure for the comparable period in 2016-17.
- Measles Outbreak and Increased child mortality
- Overcrowded settlements of the displaced populations, poor water and sanitary conditions could result in further outbreaks of measles and acute watery diarrhoea (AWD), affecting mostly children under five years of age.
- The levels of acute malnutrition could rapidly increase to 30% or more Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) which is one of the thresholds for Famine (IPC Phase 5) classification.
Connecting the dots: