Sections of Food Insecure/At Risk Populations in Somaliland

Food Security Assessment Unit - FSAU Flash 5
Following reports of drought in Awdal, Togdheer and Sanaag regions of Somaliland, FSAU joined government and UN agency missions to the affected areas to assess the drought situation. The exercise took place between July 13 and 21, 2000. Below is a summary of the assessment findings.

Background and Key Factors

Awdal region: Coastal and sub-coastal areas of Awdal region are pastoral, rearing sheep, relatively fewer goats and camels. Livestock form the basic component of the people's livelihood. There have been irregular and insufficient rains for the last 2-3 years. The only dependable rainfall, the hais rains, which occurs in December to February failed this year, worsening the situation in an already bad case.

Hawd pastoralists in Togdheer region present another chronically vulnerable case. The area is a camel, sheep and goats (shoat) zone and has a chronic water shortage but traditionally rich in pasture. The pattern in this wet-season grazing has been upset by human interference. Pastoral livelihood is heavily livestock dependent. FSAU carried out a drought assessment in November 1999 and recommended water and food interventions. WFP responded with FFD and FFW early 2000. Since then, both the deyr and gu rains have been below normal except in pockets. (FSAU monthly highlights and reports)

Sanag region is generally less vulnerable than most regions in the Northwest. Normally, both Gu and Deyr rains are received. Last Jilaal was bad and the Gu was normal to heavy and these had mixed effects. Pastoralists mainly rear sheep, camel and goats but pockets of agriculture exist. Fishing occurs along the coast. Floods damage was reported earlier.

Current situation

Awdal (Zeilac and Lughaye)

There has been a failure of hais rains except for p o c k e t s in s o u t h e rn Lughaye district - pasture is dry and gray. Low water table and breakdown of important boreholes is reducing water access. Livestock condition is poor, those unable to walk are abandoned. Milk/ghee production is down by over 60%. Below normal calving and conception rates are reported. About 80-90% of sub-coastal camel and cattle and 20-30% of goats have out-migrated and their condition is reportedly near normal. Coastal camels could not migrate due to adaptation problems. Most mortality occurred among smallstock that could not migrate and the few cattle that were left behind. Most deaths occurred in sheep, cattle and goats, in that order. The table below shows estimated percentages for livestock migrations and mortality. The poor and middle wealth groups are hard hit as the losses represent a high fraction of their asset base (shoats), yet restocking is difficult for them (esp. the poor) as they have few to very few camel/cattle.

Availability of own produced food (milk/ghee) is below normal. Cereal and sugar supply is normal but purchasing power is very poor. Malnutrition is manifest, especially in children. Health Ministry reports cases of TB and Diarrhoea, and poor health facilities/services. Coping strategies are unsustainable or getting ineffective. Main ones include: Emergency sales/slaughter of livestock; wild products/food collection and sale; and above normal community support seeking - remittance and credit.

Affected populations are the poor and about half of the middle wealth groups in Zeylac and Lughaye districts. The combined populations are 26.000 people (3,700 families) (based on WHO '97), of which 50-60% are at risk of serious livelihood depletion and the rest, 40-50% are food insecure with their condition deteriorating fast. Current rains falling in the mountain ranges may bring in run-off water and mitigate water situation along dry rivers, but pasture situation will be unchanged.

Togdheer Hawd Pastoralists and Sanaag

Main drought-affected districts in Togdheer Hawd are Burco, Odweyne and Buuhodle. There have been below normal to poor successive rains including last Gu rains. Increasing distance between water and pasture, common water points overcrowded. Shoats/camel watering has began, which is abnormal, just one month after the Gu. Poor pasture availability except in pockets. 'Tree shaking' for foliage is happening. Unpalatable plant species are widely seen. Water sources may support needs for next 1-2 months, till Deyr, but water prices in private berkads is already higher than normal. In some places water trucking has already began. Livestock mortality reported since last Jilaal, mainly for cattle (60-70%), but area is not a cattle zone. Shoat death is 15-25%, while camel mortality is normal (less than 5%). Migrations to Ethiopia and Sool Hawd is seen, especially camels (40-60%) and Burco pastoralists moving to mountains. Livestock marketing is recovering but at below normal pace. Most poor households have split families and spread over the towns/villages after herd size reduced to below 30 shoats. Community support is waning, and employment opportunities are below normal. About 10,000-12,000 families food insecure and 3,500-4,000 at risk.

In Sanaag region the district concern is El-Afweyn. Drought is not a current problem. Of concern is the damage from Gu floods (drowning livestock, sweeping agricultural land and equipment) and the lingering effects of the Jilaal. Both have caused loss to livelihood, making some 1000-1500 households food insecure. However, due to the general availability of water and lush pastures the affected households will most likely cope with the food insecurity with community support till Deyr.


  • Affected areas of Awdal: Immediate food assistance to save lives and livelihoods, for the next 7 months to the next hais rains. Deyr rains in October are unlikely. Interventions in water sectors to revive Karure, Kalowle, Lughaye and Laanta Morohda boreholes. Human health and veterinary service provision. Erosion and gully control in grazing areas.

  • Togdheer Hawd: Continuation of the food aid distributions. Rehabilitation of communal, strategic water catchments. Support efforts of gully control and erosion, such as the project being carried by a women's group in Hawd.

  • Sanaag: Rehabilitational and development assistance is urgently needed in the areas of tillage, gully and erosion control to prepare for the next crop season. Rehabilitation of fishing boats and gear. Close food security monitoring for the affected groups is essential.

FSAU 's core partners are FEWS and SCF (UK); close collaborations also exist with WFP, FAO, UNCU, UNDP/DIMU, UNA, and UNICEF. While all efforts have been made to utilize the most accurate data and information available, neither FSAU, FEWS, SCF(UK) nor any of their supporters or partners en-dorse any figure or political boundary as definitive.

The FSAU is funded by the EU and implemented by FAO.

Further information is available through PO Box 64902, Nairobi, Tel: 745734, 740598, 741299, 746509,, Fax: 740598. E-mail: