Somalia faces another drought over poor rainy seasons
The deterioration in the humanitarian situation came earlier than expected. 2.2 million people will need urgent food assistance by July 2019
Below-average rains across most of Somalia during the 2018 Deyr (October-December), followed by harsh weather conditions during the dry Jilaal (January–March 2019) season and the poor performance of the Gu’ (April-June 2019) rains in April, has led to worsening drought conditions in many parts of the country, according to the latest update by FAO-led Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and FEWSNET. The 2019 Gu’ rains have dismally failed in the first six weeks of the season across the Horn of Africa resulting in a second consecutive below-average rainy season in a region still recovering from the impact of the prolonged 2016/17 drought. In Somalia, the 2019 Gu’ is the top third driest on record since 1981.
Even if the rains improve in May, which is unlikely, recovery rain losses in March and April is not achievable. Widespread crop failure and accelerated decline in livestock productivity are rapidly pushing communities in the worst-affected areas into acute food insecurity crisis phase or worse. Consequently, the number of people in acute food insecurity crisis phase or worse (IPC3 & 4) has spiked by ten per cent to more than 1.7 million by April, which is more than double the 2016/17 drought period, and is expected to reach 2.2 million by July. Almost half of these (43 per cent) are internally displaced persons (IDPs). The severe drought conditions are leading to further internal displacement with nearly 44, 000 people estimated to have moved from rural areas into urban centres this year. Overall, 2.6 million people are internally displaced across the country. Humanitarians have also reported an increase in number of admissions for the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) between January and March 2019. Urgent treatment is needed for some 954,000 children anticipated to be acutely malnourished in 2019, including 174,600 severely. The deterioration has come much earlier than seen over the last decades and before affected communities could recover from the most recent drought.
The worst-affected areas
The worst-affected areas include Northern Inland Pastoral (NIP), East Golis Pastoral,
Addun Pastoral and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zones. In these areas, severe pasture and water deficits and early water trucking have been reported. Food security outcomes in East Golis Pastoral of Bari; Hawd Pastoral of Nugaal, Mudug, Galgaduud and Hiraan; and Addun Pastoral of Mudug have deteriorated from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as more households are expected to experience food consumption gaps through June 2019. The harsh Jilaal has also affected rural livelihoods in southern Somalia including Bay/Bakool Agropastoral and Southern Agropastoral of Hiraan, although the impact is less severe compared to central and northern regions.
Limited saleable livestock assets, poor livestock body conditions, reduced access to milk, increased household expenditures on the rising cost of food and water, and overstretched social support networks have led to reduced food access. Further, humanitarian food assistance levels have significantly declined compared to the final quarter of 2018 due to limited humanitarian funding. As a result, food insecurity is worsening among pastoralists in northern and central Somalia.
Since February 2019, both upstream and downstream water levels of the Shabelle and Juba rivers have remained very low. In some areas, river beds have dried up completely, due to prevailing drier-than-normal weather and high temperatures. This has led to extreme water scarcity for riverine communities. Water prices in some areas are at twice the five-year average. Off-season production in riverine areas was also 11 percent lower than estimates in January 2019.
Humanitarian response and gaps
A $45.7 million SHF/CERF allocation is enabling the scale up of drought response to communities in targeted areas of northern, central and southern Somalia hardest-hit by the prolonged drought conditions, but much more is required. The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which seeks $1.08 billion, is critically under-funded at only 19 per cent by the end of April. This gap is expected to increase as populations in IPC 2 continue to shift to IPC 3 or worse. Urgent additional, decisive and front-loaded financial support, which was key for the 2017 drought response, will now be critical to allow aid agencies to immediately scale up response in areas hardest hit by the drought. Critical sectors such as WASH, health, nutrition, food, protection and shelter are unable to scale up due to limited resources. WASH response is scaling back in several drought-affected rural areas and in urban centres where new IDPs continue to arrive – heightening the fears of disease outbreaks.
The Humanitarian Country Team is preparing a 2019 Drought Response Plan, nested within the 2019 Humanitarian response Plan (HRP), to mobilize resources to address food gaps in the most severely affected areas and to support a more substantial increase in needs during the period between May and October 2019.