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Somalia repeated cycles of drought

Throughout Somalia, repeated cycles of drought currently verging on pre-famine conditions in many areas have increased vulnerabilities, resulted in the loss of crops, livelihoods and livestock, and weakened purchasing power. Most areas in Somaliland and Puntland have experienced between four to six consecutive seasons of far below average rainfall over the last three years. During 2017, both the Gu and Deyr seasons have averaged less than 50% of the norm. In areas that did receive rain, there was a temporary and short-lived improvement in pasture and water availability, which brought some relief to pastoral families, but crop-producing areas such as Toghdeer saw a poor harvest. The worst hit area has been the Northern Inland Pastoral Zone, covering Sool, Sanaag, Bari and Nugal. Other badly affected areas include the Guban in Awdal. In response to the deteriorating situation, the Government of Puntland issued a drought alert in September 2017 and the Government of Somaliland in January 2018.

Livestock assets, on which most rural and pastoral communities solely depend, have been considerably depleted due to increased sale and mortality, extreme reduction in livestock production and reproduction, as well as the decline in livestock/cereal terms of trade. In Puntland for instance, HADMA2 estimates that 58% of livestock holdings were lost due to drought. Livestock depletion has in turn increased indebtedness and destitution in communities. Food stocks and fodder are exhausted. Affected families are reducing the number and quality of meals per day9, with more people seeking loans to purchase food, while others are migrating to areas with water and pasture. People who lack the resources to transport their remaining weak animals, have become dependent on the limited assistance organized by local committees and clan connections, which is not sustainable as most communities’ resources are exhausted.10 Based on forecasts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and United States Geological Surv (USGS), the April to June Gu season is forecast to be below average. This will result in below average production and limited regeneration of pasture and water recharge in the first six months of 2018, and a further deterioration in food security is considered likely. Across the nine regions covered by this Emergency Appeal, around 1.18 million people out of the 5.348 million population (22%) are projected to be acutely food insecure through to May 2018.3 In Somaliland, more than 1.8 million people (52% of the population) will be in need of some form of humanitarian assistance by the end of 2018.4 This includes approximately 820,000 people facing acute food insecurity, or in “Crisis” (IPC phase 3) and “Emergency” (IPC phase 4), and approximately 987,000 who are at risk of slipping into acute food insecurity if they do not receive assistance (IPC phase 2).

Nutrition: The 2017 Deyr’ season nutrition assessment among IDPs in the main settlements and two urban areas throughout Somalia, indicates some improvement in Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) levels in certain locations (Hargeisa, Bosasso and Berbera), compared to the Gu season 2017. However, critical GAM levels were found in five out of the 15 population groups surveyed. Of these, three sites were in Puntland: Qardho IDPs (21.9%), Galkacyo IDPs (21.8%), Garowe (17.6%)12. These areas have shown persistent critical levels of malnutrition for several years. The FSNAU post-Deyr nutrition situation among the Northern Inland Pastoral population is also concerning with a GAM average of 15.6% (alert level).

Health: Water scarcity, food insecurity and malnutrition are major contributing factors to the health status of the affected population, along with the lack of access to health facilities. Successive droughts, which have seen traditional water sources drying up, have left communities vulnerable to new outbreaks of infectious diseases such as AWD/cholera and measles as they lack access to water for consumption and personal hygiene.

Internal Population Displacement: The UNHCR-led Protection and Return Monitoring Network (PRMN) currently estimates that across the nine regions covered by this emergency appeal, some 416,000 people were displaced in the period January 2017-January 2018. The clear majority of these, some 358,000 (86%), were drought-related. Most drought-related displacement took place in Sool and Sanaag, with a total number of 150,000 displacements.

In the regions of Awdal, Maroodi Jeex, Sahil, Toghdeer, Sanaag and Sool, the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix estimates that there were around 1,004,400 internally displaced people in total in October 2017, across 595 sites. Just over half (51%) had been displaced for over a year and 45% were children under the age of 18. Whilst there are some big sites in urban areas, the matrix reports that 77% of IDP’s live with host communities in rural or semi-rural areas. The other big feature of internal displacement is that the increase in migration causes separation of families, with some family members (women, children and the elderly) being left behind in the original settlements. In turn, this has also led to an increase in the number of children separated from their families.


Abdi Aziz Hassan Ibrahim is , a somali veteran journalist based in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Twitter @mareegonline