Food Security & Nutrition Quarterly Brief - Focus on Gu 2015 Season Early Warning (Issued April 28, 2016)

Situation Report
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Key Issues

Findings from the 2015/16 post Deyr food security analysis by FSNAU and partners issued in early February 2016, based on Integrated Phase Classification (IPC), an estimated 953 000 people are in Crisis and emergency (IPC Phase 3 and 4) across Somalia between February and June 2016. Additionally, about 3.7 million people across the country are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June 2016. The total number of acutely malnourished children under-five (based on October-December 2015 survey results) is estimated at 304 700. The food security projections were based on a number of assumptions, including a forecast of near average 2016 Gu (April to June) rainfall. In late February, the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (February 28, 2016) issued projections for the March-May rains indicating near to above normal rainfall for most of southern and central Somalia, but near to below normal rainfall in most parts of the North and some parts of the South. Nevertheless, the results of recent FSNAU’s rapid field assessment (March 2016) and a monthly monitoring of food security indicators suggest that the above estimates of population in acute food insecurity remain unchanged.

The 2016 Jilaal dry season (January – March) was hotter and drier than usual, particularly in parts of northern regions, including pastoral livelihoods of Northern Inland Pastoral (Bari, Sool and Sanaag regions), Guban Pastoral (Awdal and W. Galbeed regions) as well as Northwest Agropastoral. These areas have also been affected by drought since 2015. Prolonged dry conditions in these livelihoods have led to significant degradation of rangeland resources, considerable increase in water prices and deteriorated livestock conditions with some death reported, particularly in Guban Pastoral and Northern Inland Pastoral. As a result, milk production declined in the above-mentioned drought-affected areas, where livestock reproduction was low during the preceding Deyr rainy season. The early start of the Gu rainy season (from late March) alleviated pasture and water stress in most of the drought affected areas. However, the negative effects on livestock production, reproduction and asset growth in the abovementioned drought-affected areas will last at least up to the next Deyr (Oct-Dec) season. The drought situation and its impact on food security and livelihoods could rapidly deteriorate if the current Gu rains do not continue through the end of June.

According to the result of recent FSNAU rapid assessment, off-season harvest (maize, sorghum, sesame and cowpea), with a total estimate of nearly 3 700 tonnes, was collected in late February- early March 2016 in southern regions of Gedo, Hiran, Middle Shabelle and Lower and Middle Juba. The harvest was lower than expected due to the effects of low river water levels, dry weather conditions and damages from insects and wild animals. Cereal stocks of poor farmers diminished as usual for this time of the year, hence most poor farmers will rely on market purchases of cereals until the next Gu harvest, expected in July-August. Prompted by the early start of Gu rains, seasonal farming activities (land preparation, planting, etc.) commenced in most of the South and in the Northwest in late March 2016. However, significantly reduced river water levels in March 2016 hampered farming activities in Shabelle and Hiran regions. In April, farming activities intensified following the start of the Gu rainy season and improved river levels owing to good recent rains in the upper catchment of the Shabelle River in the Ethiopian Highlands.

Prices of local cereals as well as imported food commodities mostly exhibited mild changes in the first quarter of the year. Remarkably, cereal prices dropped significantly in Bay region due to declined outflow triggered by increased number of checkpoints and double taxation (government and insurgents). Prices of essential food items have also declined in government-controlled areas in the South in Bakool (Wajid and Hudur), Bay (Qansahdhere and Dinsor), Gedo (Bardhere and Burdhubo) and Hiran (Bulo-Burte and Jalalagsi) regions where trade was disrupted by insurgents for nearly past two years. The observed price trend in these conflict-affected towns is attributable to increased market supply from adjacent areas due to the recent better Deyr harvest; increased humanitarian assistance delivery (Bulo-Burte); opening up of secondary supply routes (in Hudur through El-Barde) and adjustments made by local traders for bringing food to these areas. In the first quarter of the year, the purchasing power of urban households (i.e. terms of trade between daily labour wages and cereals) remained stable in most regions.

Nutrition situation has deteriorated as a result of drought in parts of Northern regions of Awdal, W. Galbeed, Sool and Sanaag. In the affected northern areas as well as in parts of South-Central zones including parts of Middle and Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba, Bay Agropastoral, Gedo region (all rural livelihoods), Hiran (Beletweyne and Mataban districts) and Coastal Deeh livelihood of Central nutrition situation has been downgraded to either Serious (GAM 10 - 14.9%) or Critical (GAM ≥ 15%) for February-April 2016.

Timely and adequate humanitarian assistance, geared towards treatment of malnourished children, improved access to food, social safety nets and livelihood support are needed, at least, until the next Gu harvest in July-August 2016 in order to prevent further deterioration of the already precarious nutrition situation.