Humanitarian Bulletin Somalia, January 2017 | Issued on 3 February 2017



  • Possible famine in 2017

  • Access and bureaucratic impediments persisted in 2016.

  • $32 million from pooled funds boosts drought response.

Possible famine in 2017

Unless a massive and urgent scale up of humanitarian assistance takes place in the coming weeks, famine could soon be a reality in some of the worst droughtaffected areas in Somalia. The latest food security and nutrition analysis from the FAO-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) issued on 2 February 2017 reveals that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 5 million in September last year to 6.2 million between February and June. That is more than half the population.

The results also reveal a drastic increase in the number of people in “crisis” and “emergency” from 1.1 million six months ago, to a projected 3 million between February and June. The situation for children is especially grave. Some 363,000 acutely malnourished children are in need of urgent nutrition support, including life-saving treatment for more than 71,000 severely malnourished children.

Somalia is in the grip of an intense drought, induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall. In the worst affected areas, poor rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, while communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive. Since mid-2015, drought conditions have been expanding with impact worsening over time. The drought situation is compounded by protracted conflict which is causing displacements, seasonal climatic shocks and disease outbreaks.

Preliminary forecasts indicate that below average to near average rainfall is expected to prevail across most parts of Somalia during the forthcoming 2017 Gu (April-June) season. As a result, only minimal improvements are expected during this time and in some areas further deterioration in food security is possible.

Already, poor rainfall experienced in the upper parts of the Shabelle basin during the previous rainy season coupled with over utilization of the river water in Somalia and Ethiopia have led to a significant reduction in the water levels in Shabelle River, according to the Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM). Some parts of the river in the lower reaches have dried up. According to SWALIM, water availability for human and animal consumption will continue to deteriorate. Agricultural production will be affected as the water levels are too low to support irrigated farming.

Widespread water and pasture shortages have led to increased migration and displacement among drought-affected people, adding additional pressure on the receiving areas. People are increasingly moving to displacement settlements in urban areas. More than 2,400 people crossed into Ethiopia in January 2017 in search of water and food, according to UNHCR.

In 2011, Somalia experienced the worst famine of the twenty-first century, affecting an estimated four million people, three-quarters of a million of whom faced famine conditions. The famine resulted in the loss of more than a quarter million lives.


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