Introduction and background to the drought
The humanitarian situation in Somalia is rapidly deteriorating and renewed famine is a strong possibility in 2017. This comes only six years after a devastating famine in the country led to the death of more than a quarter of a million people – half of them children. The severe drought is a result of two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, more in some areas. In the worst affected areas, crops have been wiped out, declining price of livestock and increase of livestock killed, while communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive. The drought is already exacerbating competition for resources such as water, increasing possibilities of local tensions.
Total loss of livestock and destitution have been reported in some northern pastoral areas. In the lead up to the start of the anticipated below normal 2017 Gu (April-June) season rainfall, staple food prices are expected to increase sharply, and widespread livestock mortality is likely to occur as pasture and water resources become more depleted. If the 2017 Gu (April-June) season performs very poorly, if purchasing power declines to levels seen in 2010/2011, and if humanitarian assistance is not scaled up at a massive scale in the coming weeks and months, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be expected.
There are already worrying similarities to the conditions that led to the famine in 2011, but a much larger percentage of the population is at risk this time. Labor prices are collapsing, local food prices are rising, animal deaths are increasing, malnutrition rates are starting to rise, water prices are spiraling and people are starting to move in growing numbers, both within the country and to neighboring countries.
The number of people in need of assistance in Somalia has increased from five million in September 2016 to over 6.2 million in February 2017, more than half of the population in Somalia. This includes a drastic increase in the number of people in “crisis” and “emergency” from 1.1 million six months ago to nearly 3 million projected for February to June.
A drought – even one this severe – does not automatically lead to a catastrophe if humanitarian partners respond early enough with timely support from the international community. There are significant differences and opportunities today, compared to the 2011 famine, including a more engaged donor community, closely following the situation on the ground. Building on lessons learned from the 2011 famine, this Operational Plan outlines the main needs, gaps and plans for response by humanitarian partners in the first half of 2017 to prevent a famine.