DESCRIPTION OF THE EVENT
Extreme drought has left Somalia on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying crops and livestock and forcing huge numbers of people to leave their homes in search of food and water. Somalia is currently experiencing a third consecutive failed rainy season, and in some areas a fourth consecutive failed rainy season, driving widespread food insecurity across the country.
The humanitarian situation in Somalia was already grave with decades of conflict, recurrent climate shocks, desert locust infestation, disease outbreaks, and recently the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the current drought, an estimated 30 per cent of Somalis needed humanitarian assistance and protection. Along with this is a fuel crisis linked to the Ukraine war – which has been felt across Africa and the increase in fuel prices raises the price of all foodstuffs. Ukraine has also captured much of the world's attention and resources.
A 2011 famine in Somalia, which resulted in the deaths of about 250,000 people (half of them children), was exacerbated by the then-global food crisis, which caused cereal prices to double, on top of drought and a decrease in food production locally, combined with serious access issues. In 2017, East Africa also endured an extreme drought, but early humanitarian action averted a famine in Somalia.
Severity of humanitarian conditions
1. Impact on accessibility, availability, quality, use, and awareness of goods and services.
The current drought emergency in Somalia has deteriorated to a point where the country is facing the risk of famine. About 4.5 million people are affected, of whom nearly 700,000 people have been displaced from their homes in search of water, food, pasture, and livelihoods.
According to the Joint FEWS NET-FSNAU Somalia Food Security Outlook Report for Feb-Sep 2022, the severity of food insecurity has rapidly worsened in Somalia since the start of the dry season in January. Intensifying drought has caused acute water shortages, the loss of livestock essential to Somalia’s pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihood systems, and escalating staple food prices, exacerbated by ongoing conflict and global supply shocks. The impacts of the drought are also compounded by the consequences of COVID-19, conflict, and displacement, as well as a severe desert locust upsurge through 2020 and 2021.
Somalia scores very low for most humanitarian indicators, suffering from poor governance, protracted internal conflict, underdevelopment, economic decline, poverty, social and gender inequality, and environmental degradation. Somalia’s preparedness for disease outbreaks ranks among the lowest globally, 194th (of 195 countries) on the Global Health Security Index. As of December 2021, just 3.5% of Somalis were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, making the country more vulnerable to future waves of transmission. Other communicable diseases such as cholera and measles continue to pose serious health risks to Somalis. Somalia has one of the world’s lowest primary school enrollment rates – just over 40% of children are in school – and one of the world’s highest youth unemployment rates. Life expectancy is low as a result of high infant and maternal mortality rates, the spread of preventable diseases, poor sanitation, chronic malnutrition, and inadequate health service. the current drought conflict, paired with the impacts of climate change, had uprooted an estimated 2.9 million people from their homes, making Somalia one of the five worst internal displacement crises in the world.
The already vulnerable communities of Somalia are now suffering again with this ongoing drought. The deyr harvest in January was the third-lowest in the 25-year record, livestock losses are rising significantly, and cereal prices are exceptionally high. Increased migration in search of food, water, and pasture is putting further pressure and resource depletion in less drought-affected areas. Many households already face widening food consumption gaps and diminished coping capacity, and acute malnutrition cases are elevated. The joint FSNAU-FEWS NET report also warned that the upcoming Gu rains in April-June will not be sufficient to break the drought either, with a fourth consecutive below-average rainfall season predicted in April-June 2022.
Humanitarian partners and local authorities also report widespread livestock deaths and a spike in the prices of commodities like food, fuel, water, and livestock fodder. Scarce pasture and water resources have led to deterioration in livestock body conditions across the country, with livestock emaciation and deaths occurring in the worst-affected areas. Consequently, children have less access to milk, negatively affecting their nutrition, and pastoral and agropastoral households face significant reductions in their income-earning potential and many are now unable to afford their minimum water and food needs.
2. Impact on physical and mental well being
According to then, Humanitarian Needs Overview 2022 the groups most at risk of being left behind are IDPs due to their status and experience of protracted or multiple displacements, children in adversity, adolescent girls between the ages of 12 to 19 years, older persons, persons with disabilities, persons with minority clan affiliations, and marginalized communities.
The drought has exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities and social marginalization of women and has induced displacement, with the majority of those displaced being women and children. Drought also places additional burdens on women in terms of their responsibilities around household food consumption, water collection, and household care responsibilities, which expose them to greater risks. The drought impact is reflected in the extent and nature of vulnerability and poverty and the increased risk of falling into poverty, losing autonomy, and facing increased discrimination and marginalization. Droughts also negatively affect the traditional roles of older people, and perhaps more specifically their social position, as communities and power and support structures are dismantled, leaving older people with less influence and power. It reported children in 30% of households have dropped out of school as a result of the drought. Persons with disabilities and old people are often left abandoned at home for long hours as caretakers go to search for food and water.
3. Risks & vulnerabilities
Increased food insecurity: The Joint FEWS NET-FSNAU Somalia Food Security Outlook Report for Feb-Sep 2022 report warned that Somalia faces a risk of famine (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC] Phase 5) in mid-2022 if the forthcoming April to June Gu rains fail, purchasing power declines to record lows, and food assistance does not reach areas of high concern.
Escalating food prices: The Ukraine crisis has implications on food security across the region as both Russia and Ukraine are key in the global food markets (wheat, maize, rapeseed, sunflower seeds, and sunflower oil), and Russia has prominence in the global energy trade and exporter of nitrogen fertilizers and the second leading supplier of both potassic and phosphorous fertilizers. Somalia relies on imports from Russia and Ukraine for up to 90% of the country’s wheat supply. The rise in fuel costs has driven up the cost of transport and food items. With escalating food prices households also face declining purchasing power due to rising. Families have been forced to sell their properties and assets in exchange for food and other life-saving items. The cost of a food basket has already risen, particularly in Ethiopia (66 percent) and Somalia (36 percent) which depend heavily on wheat from Black Sea basin countries, and the disruption in imports further threatens food security. Shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January.
Insecurity: Constant threats from militant attacks, abduction, landmines and violent crime remain extant. Security in the capital Mogadishu and other cities remains heavily dependent on African Union support (AMISOM). Many areas of southern and central Somalia can best be defined as conflict zones, where overland travel is highly hazardous. The travel risks in the autonomous region of Puntland and the self-proclaimed independent state of Somaliland – particularly the city of Hargeisa – are lower, largely due to the capability of the local security forces and the lower risk of militancy. However, periodic clashes along Somaliland's undefined eastern border with the semi-autonomous Puntland region and the presence of militants in the Galgala mountains highlight the dangers of travel in this area.
Increased natural resource-based conflict: Due to the scarcity of natural resources – pasture and water – there is an increased risk of inter-communal conflict.
Increased displacement: According to OCHA about 671,000 people have been displaced internally in search of water, food, livelihoods, and pasture. This is more than double the number of people displaced during the same period in the 2016/17 drought emergency. According to IGAD – Climate Predictions and Applications Cente update it projected that 1 to 1.4M people may be displaced in the next 6 months in Somalia.
IDPs being left behind: According to UNHCR in 2022, the groups most at risk of being left behind are IDPs due to their status and experience of protracted or multiple displacements, children in adversity, adolescent girls between the ages of 12 to 19 years, older persons, persons with disabilities, persons with minority clan affiliations, and marginalized communities.
COVID19: Across Somalia, the socio-economic and political pressures of COVID-19 remain a risk. Intense and heavy rainfall during March April May rainy seasons can still cause cyclical floods in parts of the country.
Desert Locusts: The 2021-22 season saw the worst desert locust upsurge in 75 years. These climatic shocks are all drivers of food insecurity across the country. Making matters worse, climatic events are occurring alongside the compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.