Rapid Needs Assessment: Drought Situation in Bari, Nugal and Sanaag Regions - Puntland, Somalia (February 2016)

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1. Executive Summary

According to UNFPA’s Population Estimation Survey (2014), the population of Bari region is 719,512. The corresponding figures for Nugal and Sanag regions are 392,698 and 544,123, respectively. Nomadic populations account for the majority of the population in Nugal and Sanag (54 per cent and 65 per cent, respectively), and constitute a significant share of the population in Bari (19 per cent). Overall, Puntland continues to represent high levels of humanitarian and development needs. The collapse of the Barre government in 1991 meant that most institutions of the state and public services witnessed a steep decline. This was followed by protracted civil conflict with concomitant loss of livelihoods and widespread displacement. In the recent past, the situation has been compounded by adverse weather-related events.

Most of the areas of Puntland, in particular the Bari, Nugal and Sanag regions, have witnessed below average rains since Gu 2015. In November 2015, cyclones Chapala and Megh caused significant damage and affected more than 70,000 people (FAO-SWALIM, 2016). Later in 2015, the development of an El-Nino system intensified poor performance of rains across the mainland. The interplay of these weather-related occurrences has exacerbated the poor humanitarian situation by creating fresh pressures.

According to UNOCHA (2015), an estimated 511,000 persons are in need of immediate, life-saving assistance in Bari, Nugal and Sanag regions. Specifically for Deyr 2015, Puntland has experienced low rains across large areas of Bari, Nugal, Sanag and Sool regions (FAO-FSNAU, 2015). In the absence of adequate infrastructure, poor performance of rains has resulted in direct and significant effects on living conditions for the local population. Throughout the study locations, loss of conventional water sources such as birkads, wells, dams and streams was noted. Key stakeholder interviews revealed that this has led to significant problems in meeting minimum drinking requirements for households.
At the same time, as large numbers of households compete for depleting water sources, consumption of poor quality water has reportedly resulted in spread of diseases such as diarrhoea, and gastric and renal disorders.

In parallel, water scarcity for animals has resulted in loss and reduced health of livestock, as well as declining milk production. Among household survey respondents, 53% reported that their herd was in ‘very thin’ condition, while 47% said that their herd was in ‘thin’ condition – representing a total of 100%. As livestock is a mainstay of the local economy, key informant interviews documented significant pressures on income and economic activity. This, in turn, has translated into reduced access to food and basic services.

Critical issues identified during the assessment included loss of livelihoods, poor access to drinking water and food, and high prevalence of malnutrition. Access to basic services such as health, education, sanitation and protection were also chronic concerns.

In terms of the near future, discussions with key informants revealed that the effects of the drought will become more intense with temperature increases over the coming months. At the same time, disease outbreaks and water contamination issues can also be expected to increase. In this context, the anticipated Gu rains in March will prove a watershed: normal or above average performance of rains is expected to alleviate the poor water situation across the regions. However, sporadic or below-average rains will intensify the crisis and significantly enhance associated humanitarian needs.
A worrying projection in this respect is the fifty-fifty chance of a La Nina event in 2016, which could further exacerbate existing conditions.

One of the most direct impacts of recent weather-related events was on livelihoods. When asked if their livelihoods had been affected due to recent occurrences of water scarcity, an overwhelming majority of 93% reported that their livelihood had witnessed a decline of more than 50% of income.
As a consequence of the drought, several pastoralists were observed to have migrated with their livestock to other locations, principally in the Hawd livelihood zone.

In general, among different respondents, noted effects of the drought included livestock body wasting and a sharp decline in their market price by up to 50%. Milking frequency was also observed to have declined across multiple locations, with a decrease from three times per day to one time per day. The assessment noted that export of livestock to Gulf countries had declined significantly due to poor body condition of animals. Overall, the decline in this vital sector of the economy was observed to carry spill over effects as small business owners reported falling sales and rising debts due to the poor purchasing power of typical customers.

As can be expected, deterioration of food security is an immediate outcome of loss of livelihoods and income as a result of the prevailing drought conditions. According to the Deyr 2015 estimates from FSNAU, 11% of the population of Bari region is in crisis or emergency (IPC 3 or 4). The corresponding figure for Sanag is 10%. It is estimated that a significant share of the population across all three regions are stressed (IPC 2), who can slip into more extreme levels of food insecurity due to the drought. Worryingly, the latest projections from FEWSNET (2016) indicate that the regions represent one of the most food insecure hotspots in Somalia, with large areas of Bari and Sanag under crisis conditions.

During the household survey, when asked how many meals children in the household had eaten over the previous day, only 22% of respondents answered ‘three meals’. 72% answered ‘two meals’, while 6% stated that they had consumed ‘one meal’. When asked if they faced any problems in buying food since the drought, an overwhelming 98% of respondents answered ‘yes’. Strikingly, it was observed that the number of people purchasing food on credit rose sharply following rain failures (from 10% to 81%), while the number of people purchasing food through cash declined (from 85% to 11%).

In terms of nutrition, estimates by FSNAU indicate that Bari, Nugal and Sanag regions represent a serious nutrition situation where 10 to 14.9% of the population are malnourished. Within the regions, important hotspots in terms of nutrition include the urban areas of Bari, as well as IDP settlements in Bosaso, Garowe and Galkayo. Given that the drought will cause further stress to livelihoods and food security in the near future, it is likely that the nutrition situation will witness a further decline.

Across the study locations, commonly used water sources included birkads (74%), boreholes (6%) and shallow wells (5%). Significantly, 14% of respondents relied on private purchase of water. In terms of distance from the water source, 51% of respondents reported that the drought had increased the distance, while 42% said that the distance had remained the same. The average travel time to fetch water was recorded at three hours.

Given the pressures on water sources, shared use by humans and animals was observed at multiple sites. This carries obvious and significant risks in terms of disease outbreaks. In some cases, reports of conflict between different clans over dwindling water supplies were also noted.

Across all regions, 57% of respondents reported using shared latrines. However, a quarter of all households practiced open defecation in fields, which presents significant health in terms of contamination of water sources and outbreak of infectious diseases.

Availability of health facilities in the study areas was observed to be a major issue. Overall, 73% of respondents indicated they had access to a health facility, while 27% reported lack of access.
However, distance to the nearest health facility was recorded at 30 km, with a maximum reported distance of 190 km. Therefore, absence of infrastructure, large distance to available health facilities, and poor quality of treatment were recorded as pressing concerns.

Likewise, educational infrastructure was also found to be inadequate across the three regions. When asked if they had access to any education facilities, 95% of respondents answered ‘yes’, while 5% answered ‘no’. However, significant issues in terms of distance and quality of educational facilities were noted. Among those answering in the affirmative, 86% referred to primary schools, while 9% referred to both primary and secondary schools. 5% referred to alternative basic education schools. The average distance to a school facility across the survey locations was 15 km.

When asked if the school was functioning normally since the drought, 71% of respondents answered ‘yes’, while 29% answered ‘no’. Important reasons for reportedly poor functioning of schools included lack of teaching staff and students dropping out (due to migration or economic pressures created by the water scarcity). Across multiple districts, it was observed that a rise in school fees to cater to increased price of water created further pressures for children to attend school.

The prevailing humanitarian situation has also carried complex implications for child protection as families struggle to cope with different pressures. The most fundamental way in which child protection is affected is through creation of economic imperatives where parents feel constrained to leave their children with extended family members as they migrate, or to send their children to work independently or with other families. This carries significant risks in terms of exposing children to potential situations of violence, abuse and economic exploitation.

Based on the results from the assessment, the following key recommendations for a response by SC are noted:

Immediate Needs

  • Water trucking should be undertaken in the worst affected districts, including Qardo,
    Dangoroyo, Isjushuban and Eyi. Importantly, adopting innovative models such as prioritising schools for water distribution can lead to overlapping benefits.

  • In order to improve the food security situation, unconditional cash transfers should be provided across the two regions, which represent the highest proportion of food insecure and malnourished populations in Somalia. While the assessment noted pressing food security concerns in Bari and Sanag regions, such transfers should be carefully targeted through community-based targeting systems.

  • High levels of malnutrition are noted to exist in urban areas of Bari, and IDP settlements in Bosaso, Galkayo and Garowe. OTP services should be strengthened in the area and nutrition surveys should be conducted to precisely identify malnourished families.

Short-Term Needs (through 2016)

  • Water sources across the regions are in urgent need of repair and rehabilitation. This is also important to prevent disease outbreaks following instances of rains. At the same time, new water sources should be developed at previously identified sites across the three regions.

  • There is a need to actively promote water conservation through cost-effective methods such as rainwater harvesting and development of clay dams. Such initiatives will serve to reduce the widespread problem of erosion caused by rainwater, as well as provide a vital opportunity for alternative work in these regions.

  • Across health and education sectors, there is an urgent need to enhance availability and functioning of essential public services. Moreover, innovative service delivery methods, such as mobile health units and alternative basic education, should be actively explored and enhanced to fulfil longstanding needs.

  • Child protection emerged as an important issue during the assessment. There is a need to develop cash transfer programmes for the poorest families to reduce the incentives for sending children to work. At the same time, parents need to be adequately sensitised about the importance of child protection needs.

  • Livelihood rehabilitation activities should be undertaken within a short timeframe. These can include of restocking for pastoralists, as well as provision of seed and other agricultural inputs for farmers. Outreach and health service for farmers are also crucially required.

Medium-Term Needs (2016 and beyond)

  • As climatic peculiarities are expected to intensify with increasing global warming, there is a need to identify and promote skills and livelihoods in the three regions.

  • Capacity support to the Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Agency should be substantially enhanced in order to promote establishment of early warning and disaster preparedness systems. Greater cooperation with other organisations represented under the Humanitarian Country Team is crucial in this respect.