Conflict disrupts trade in Hiraan and Bakool, increasing food insecurity
Conflict has intensified and blocked road access to towns in Bakool and in southern Hiraan for the past six months, limiting trade and decreasing demand for labor. Food prices have increased dramatically in these towns just as labor opportunities have declined. While prices have not increased as much in surrounding agropastoral areas, households had little left from the last harvest, and most of their income over the coming months from livestock sales is likely to be devoted to repaying debts. With a fourth consecutive below-average harvest likely in agropastoral areas in July/August, both agropastoral and urban households are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) unless trade resumes and humanitarian access increases.
Al Shabaab has cut off road access to towns controlled by the Federal Government of Somalia and backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including to Buloburte in southern Hiraan and Rabdhure and Wajid in Bakool. As a result, prices for food and essential non-food items have increased. Some communal water sources have become inaccessible. Before the fighting intensified, many better off or middle-income households left for other parts of Somalia, causing a drop in labor demand. Without trade driving the urban economies, food access has declined. Most poor households are likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
Food security is also deteriorating in surrounding agropastoral areas, where the volume of goods traded is unusually low. These areas include agropastoral areas in Buloburte District in Hiraan, and Wajid, Rabdhure, and El Barde Districts in Bakool. In El Barde, for example, the March price of red sorghum was 50 percent higher than last year, even though March red sorghum prices in most markets in southern Somalia are only five to 20 percent higher than last year. These areas had a very small Deyr harvest in January/February. Some areas in Buloburte District had almost no crop production, and even region-wide Deyr cereal production in Bakool was nine percent below the five-year average. Households are unable to send members to towns to seek labor, to sell livestock, or to sell bush products like charcoal and firewood. With no rain in December, the dry season started early, and warmer than usual temperatures since then have caused a decline in water and pasture availability. Without these resources for livestock, households’ access to milk is limited. Poor households are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and a significant number of the poorest households are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
With less food and income than usual, agropastoral areas are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through at least September. Food security in urban areas will fluctuate as trader access changes, but during times of highly restricted trade, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is possible. In more productive riverine areas, high fuel prices are likely to reduce planting, resulting in reduced labor demand and wages during the April to June Gu rains. Nonetheless, food security in these areas is likely to be relatively better given stocks remaining from the February Deyr harvest.
Some humanitarian assistance from the Government of Turkey reached Buloburte town in December. The World Food Program (WFP) is planning some aerial food deliveries to the towns. However, humanitarian access is extremely limited both to towns and agropastoral areas. Continuation of the trade restrictions for a long period of time could push additional areas into Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Efforts to end the conflict, promote the resumption of trade and other economic activities, deliver aid in very difficult circumstances, and restore humanitarian access are necessary.