Context, Shocks, and Impact of the Crisis
Somalia’s prolonged humanitarian crisis is characterized by ongoing conflicts, climate-related shocks, communicable disease outbreaks and weak social protection mechanisms. Since the beginning of 2020, three additional shocks have contributed to a deterioration of humanitarian conditions: Extensive floods,
Desert Locust infestations, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
These compounding shocks have exacerbated humanitarian needs among a population already living under the strain of widespread poverty and decades of armed conflict and insecurity.
Climate change continues to be a major contributing factor to displacement and food insecurity in Somalia.
Increasingly erratic weather patterns and climatic shocks have led to prolonged and severe drought conditions and floods, with devastating humanitarian consequences. Flooding displaced 919,000 people in 2020 and destroyed essential infrastructure, property and 144,000 hectares of agricultural land. In tandem,
Somalia also experienced the worst Desert Locust invasion in 25 years; tens of thousands of hectares of cropland and pasture were damaged, with potentially severe consequences for agriculture and pastoralbased livelihoods.
Communities living in conflict areas were severely impacted by armed violence. The ongoing conflict continues to reduce the resilience of communities, trigger displacement and impede civilians’ access to basic services and humanitarians’ access to those in need. Exclusion and discrimination of socially marginalized groups are contributing to high levels of acute humanitarian need and lack of protection among some of the most vulnerable. Civilians bore the brunt of the conflict through death and injury, property destruction, taxation of communities (including through forced child recruitment), land grabbing, destruction of livelihoods, limited freedom of movement, and limited access to services and humanitarian assistance.
COVID-19 directly impacted the lives of Somalis, worsening patterns of vulnerability. This came on top of ongoing disease outbreaks such as cholera, measles and, recently, vaccine-derived poliovirus. Healthcare providers have faced increased burdens and costs, forced to alter the way care is provided. Restrictions also disrupted the face-to-face delivery of humanitarian assistance, impacting assessments, targeting and the quality of the response. However, partners successfully scaled up mobile money transfers and transitioned to assessments via mobile phones.
In 2021, the situation is not expected to improve. Based on the risk analysis, it is highly likely that climate shocks will continue to affect the most vulnerable people in Somalia in 2021. Drought conditions are expected in early 2021 as La Niña led to decreased rainfall in the 2020 Deyr rainy season (October-December), affecting crop production. Given the fragility of food security in the country, this will likely have a devastating impact well beyond the beginning of the year. Further, despite ongoing control measures, there is a high likelihood that conditions will remain favourable for locusts to continue breeding and developing, increasing food insecurity and the effects on livelihoods. Recent climate events show that even during drought conditions, heavy and localized rains are likely to cause damage and displacement. Despite a forecast of below-average rainfall1 , flooding is expected to occur again during the 2021 Gu rainy season (April-June). However, it may not be as severe as in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with other communicable diseases and an ongoing outbreak of cholera, will continue to affect the most vulnerable Somalis and strain the already weak health system. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) global estimate, 20 per cent of Somalia’s population will suffer from the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic in 2021. Finally, armed conflict and insecurity are expected to continue to drive needs and cause displacement while simultaneously impeding effective humanitarian operations and access to vulnerable or marginalized communities.
Scope of Analysis
In 2021, Somalia is expected to continue facing significant humanitarian challenges. An estimated 5.9 million people are expected to be in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), over 2.7 million people across Somalia are expected to face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity by mid-20212 . However, humanitarian partners estimate that this number will likely continue to grow in the latter half of the year.
The number of people in need has consistently increased over the last three years, from 4.2 million in 2019 to 5.2 million in 2020 and 5.9 million in 2021. This is further reflected in the number of displaced people in 2020;
Somalia recorded the highest number over the past three years at 1.2 million displaced people, compared to 884,000 in 2018 and 770,000 in 2019. In total, more than 2.6 million people are internally displaced – all of whom continue to face serious risks of marginalization, forced eviction and exclusion. While IDPs are disproportionately affected by the crisis, the majority of those in need in Somalia are not displaced, including 4.8 million vulnerable non-IDPs. This is largely due to the impact of decades of recurrent climate shocks, armed conflict, and political and socio-economic factors that continue to drive needs in the country, with nearly seven out of 10 Somalis living in poverty3 .
Due to the security situation in Yemen and Ethiopia, it is expected that Somalia will continue to receive refugees and asylum seekers. Over 28,000 refugees and asylum seekers are projected to require assistance and support in 2021.
Other factors, such as gender, age and disability, add to the level of vulnerability, risks and barriers faced. As such, they need to be considered in the humanitarian response.
Humanitarian Conditions, Severity, and People in Need
Households across all of Somalia remain in deep need, with many struggling to achieve the essential services and resources necessary to meet the basic requirements of life. Many displaced and non-displaced Somali households face complex, co-occurring, overlapping humanitarian needs that are mutually compounding and need to be addressed in tandem. The Joint Multi-Cluster Needs Assessment (JMCNA) 2020 found that roughly over half of all households reported at least two overlapping severe, critical or catastrophic sectoral needs, underscoring the need for inter-sectoral, integrated responses.
Huge food and nutrition gaps remain, particularly among poor agropastoral, marginalized and urban communities, where many vulnerable persons can be classified as, or are in danger of being pushed into, the most severe phases of food and nutrition insecurity.
For HNO planning, the Food Security Cluster is using an average projection of 3.5 million Somalis facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security conditions through 2021. It is of particular concern that children constitute over 60 per cent of those in need in Somalia, and malnutrition rates among children remain among the worst in the world. Close to 1 million children in Somalia are estimated to be acutely malnourished, including 162,000 under 5 suffering from life-threatening severe malnutrition.
Significant gaps exist in Somalia’s health sector, exacerbated by COVID-19, which poses serious concern considering the high level of vulnerability across the country. Access to healthcare remains very limited, particularly in rural areas, resulting in some of the worst health outcomes in the world. Last year, Somalia experienced outbreaks of measles, Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) and cholera, and vaccine-derived polio. In addition, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is widespread across the country. A rise was reported during COVID-19, with 31 per cent of community members surveyed stating there had been an increase in FGM incidents4 .
IDPs remain the most vulnerable population group in Somalia. The protracted nature of displacement caused by floods, conflict and drought continues to affect the physical and mental wellbeing of 1.6 million IDPs who require humanitarian assistance. Many IDP households have faced a steady depletion of assets and increase in negative coping mechanisms, culminating in severe conditions with regards to their food insecurity, malnutrition, disease outbreaks, water and hygiene conditions, and critical protection concerns. Of particular concern are displaced households in IDP sites who are facing extreme needs at greater rates than other population groups. The Nutrition Cluster estimates that the highest rates of acute malnutrition continue to be found in IDP sites, while 95% of all IDPs in need of humanitarian assistance are hosted in urban areas in informal sites.
Poor urban households are of particular concern in both IDP and non-IDP population groups. The urban poor have limited livelihood opportunities and mostly rely on income from casual labour, which they need to compete for with other IDPs, non-displaced urban poor and an increasing number of rural migrants. There is a severe lack of access to the labour market in urban settings, particularly for the most vulnerable and uneducated. As the urban poor spend a major portion of their income on food, they are also adversely affected by increases in food prices. Both food prices and work opportunities were impacted by COVID-19 in 2020, further aggravating conditions.
Across all population groups, the most vulnerable include households with a significant proportion of persons with disabilities or medical conditions, children, older persons, and pregnant and lactating women. As families lose their socio-economic safety net and the capacity to cope with shocks, these vulnerabilities are further increased if those members are the sole household head.
Against a backdrop of increasing needs, Somalia remains one of the most insecure countries in the world to operate in, particularly for aid workers, impacting on humanitarian’s ability to reach those in need. Humanitarian partners face multiple obstacles to the delivery of assistance across Somalia, including active hostilities and access challenges. Between 1 January and 31 December 2020, 255 incidents impacting humanitarian operations were recorded in which 15 humanitarian workers were killed, 12 injured, 24 abducted and 14 detained or temporarily arrested.
By comparison, 151 incidents were recorded for the whole of 2019.
Despite challenges, humanitarian partners continue to reach people in need across Somalia. During 2020, 2.3 million people (87 per cent) out of a targeted 3 million were reached with assistance. Over 1.5 million people were provided with health and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) services, 445,000 persons benefited from education services and 288,000 persons were provided with nutrition support, including 166,000 boys and girls (6-59 months) suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
In 2021, while humanitarians will continue to do all that is possible to alleviate suffering and save lives, an estimated $1.09 billion will be needed to respond to the needs of people in Somalia. The international humanitarian community will continue to work closely with local authorities, national NGOs and civil society organizations to ensure local resources cover the priority needs of all people identified to be in need of humanitarian assistance.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.