Somalia faces increased Risk of Famine as acute food insecurity, malnutrition and mortality worsen


4 June 2022, Mogadishu – Worsening drought is putting some areas in central and southern Somalia at an increased Risk of Famine through at least September 2022 if the current Gu season crop and livestock production fails, food prices continue to rise sharply and humanitarian assistance is not scaled up to reach those most in need. These areas include Hawd Pastoral of Central and Hiraan, Addun Pastoral of Northeast and Central, Agro Pastoral livelihoods in Bay and Bakool regions, and IDP settlements in Baidoa, Mogadishu, Dhusamareb, and Galkacyo. The situation in Bay region is particularly concerning as the acute malnutrition threshold for Famine (IPC Phase 5) has been breached in Baidoa district. Mortality (Crude Death Rate) has reached the Emergency (IPC Phase 4) threshold in Bay Agropastoral of Burhakaba and Baidoa districts, and death rates among children have reached the Emergency (IPC Phase 4) threshold in Bay Agropastoral of Baidoa district. While a Famine (IPC Phase 5) classification requires at least two of the three criteria to be met, the increase in acute malnutrition levels and mortality signal that loss of life and livelihoods is already occurring.

Acute food insecurity has continued to worsen across Somalia, with an estimated 5.2 million people (or 33% of the total population) already experiencing Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or higher) outcomes, including 38 000 people likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), as of May 2022, despite the ongoing delivery of humanitarian food assistance. Food assistance reached an average of 2.4 million people per month between February and April 2022 and has likely prevented the worsening of food security and nutrition outcomes in many areas.

However, humanitarian assistance delivery is far short of the rising level of need, and insufficient funding is expected to lead to pipeline breaks in food assistance delivery after June. Food insecurity and malnutrition are expected to deteriorate further and faster between June and September 2022, and if humanitarian food assistance is not scaled up and sustained, then approximately 7.1 million people (or 45% of the total population) are expected to face Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or higher) outcomes. This figure includes 2.1 million people that will likely be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and at least 213 000 people that will likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In addition to the population groups that face an increased Risk of Famine, other areas of concern include Northern Inland Pastoral of Northwest, Hawd Pastoral of Northwest, Southern Agropastoral, Southern Rain-fed Agropastoral of Middle and Lower Juba, and Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zones as well as IDP settlements in Burao, Lasaanod, Garoowe, Belet Weyne, Doolow and Kismaayo, all of which face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) between June and September 2022.

Based on the results from 11 integrated food security, nutrition and mortality surveys conducted between late April and early May 2022, the total acute malnutrition burden estimates for Somalia for 2022 have been revised and updated. Accordingly, as of May 2022, an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five years (total acute malnutrition burden), representing 45 percent of the total population of children, face acute malnutrition through the end of the year, including 386 400 who are likely to be severely malnourished.

Urgent and timely scaling up of integrated humanitarian assistance is required to prevent extreme food insecurity and acute malnutrition, including starvation and excess mortality, in areas facing an increased Risk of Famine through at least September 2022. In particular, malnutrition and mortality outcomes in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts in Bay region already point to an extremely concerning situation as of May 2022. While only one of the criteria of Famine (IPC Phase 5) has been met in Baidoa district as of May, there is increasing concern that further deterioration in food consumption, acute malnutrition, and mortality may lead to Famine (IPC Phase 5) in these two districts if humanitarian assistance is not scaled up urgently in these areas. A new round of data collection will be undertaken in June to further assess the likelihood of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in Bay Region. Moreover, available long-range forecasts indicate that a record fifth below-average rainy season is likely across Somalia during the forthcoming October and December 2022 Deyr season. Therefore, humanitarian needs are expected to worsen and remain high nationally well into 2023.

The conclusions above are based on updated IPC and Famine Risk Analyses conducted in May 2022 by food security and nutrition experts drawn from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management (MOHADM) of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU/FAO), Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET), World Food Programme (WFP VAM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Action Against Hunger (ACF), and the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Clusters, with the technical support of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Global Support Unit (IPC GSU).

A multi-season drought that began in Somalia in late 2020 has continued to worsen through May 2022, leading to further deterioration of the food security and nutrition situation across many parts of the country. Persistent insecurity and conflict– particularly in central and southern Somalia, as well as global supply and price shocks, are further exacerbating the food insecurity situation in Somalia. While the current Gu (March/April-June) rains marginally replenished pasture and water resources in some locations, widespread water and pasture scarcity persists. Over three million livestock are estimated to have died since mid-2021 due to starvation and disease. Four consecutive poor or failed harvests since 2020, escalating local and imported food prices, and drought and conflict-induced population displacement are all leading to a decline in the coping capacity of poor and vulnerable populations across Somalia.

Cumulative Gu season rainfall between March to early June 2022 was 40-70 percent below average. Due to the impacts of drought on livestock health, poor and vulnerable pastoral households currently have limited access to milk and lack saleable animals. Pastoral households have also accumulated very high debt burdens, driven by the prohibitive costs of water and feed for livestock, an increased reliance on purchasing food for the family on credit, and abnormal livestock migration to distant areas in search of pasture and water.

Agropastoral and riverine livelihood zones have had several consecutive failed cereal harvests, with further disruption to cash crop and cereal production in riverine areas due to low water levels in the Juba and Shabelle Rivers. In agropastoral and riverine areas, area planted and crop growth are far below normal due to the poor rains, the displacement of households away from their farms, and farmers’ reduced ability to afford seeds, irrigation, and other inputs.