The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are deeply concerned about the impact of the recent and persistent drought in Somalia. The latest extreme drought that hit Somalia during the ‘Deyr’ rainfall season in the last quarter of 2016 came after an already poor ‘Gu’ season from March to May. Combined with factors including high food prices, trade disruption, population displacement and insecurity, this drought is having a very severe impact on the food security of millions of people in the coming months, and could be exacerbated by a forecast poor ‘Gu’ rainfall season in 2017.
Somalia endured an extreme drought during the October-December ‘Deyr’ rainfall period (Fig. 1). Across most of the country, a persistent lack of rainfall led to extensive failures of the growing season, and record low vegetation cover and soil moisture conditions. The impact of the ‘Deyr’ season drought is amplified by the effects of the poor rains during the previous March to May 2016 ‘Gu’ rainfall season. This had already led to significant losses in crop and pasture production, and weakened the capacity of households to deal with a shock of this magnitude.
This drought is part of a wider-scale event that includes central, coastal and northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and, to a lesser degree, other areas of the Great Horn of Africa. In areas of central and northern Somalia, the current drought is more intense than that of 2010, which played a major role in the 2010-2011 food crisis humanitarian disaster. The failed rainy season is linked to the La Niña climate phenomenon combined with exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean. This combination typically causes low rainfall levels in the eastern parts of the Horn of Africa.
As a result of the drought, the January ‘Deyr’ harvest estimates provided by FEWS NET and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit - Somalia (FSNAU) indicate extremely low levels of crop production in Southern and Central Somalia (75% below the 5-year average). The drought is already producing severe water and pasture shortages in pastoral regions, including southern and central areas, Puntland and parts of Somaliland. In the north of Somalia, parts of the Sanaag, Bari, Sool and Nugal districts have experienced repeated poor rainy seasons, severe loss of livestock, and a severe reduction in milk production.