Somalia: Half the population in humanitarian crisis amid an escalating civil war


Somalia faces its worse humanitarian crisis in eighteen years amid an escalating civil war that threatens to push the country into chaos and lead to further deteriorations in the food security and nutrition status of the people. Results of a country-wide comprehensive inter-agency assessment, led by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FAO/FSNAU), confirm that the Humanitarian Crisis in Somalia is widespread and severe, with half of the population or an estimated 3.76 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

"This signals a serious deterioration in the emergency food security and nutrition situation from earlier this year", says Cindy Holleman, the Chief Technical Advisor of the Somalia FSNAU. "More worrying is that the escalating fighting and conflict is occurring in the same areas where we are now recording the greatest problems of food access and malnutrition. This will not only place additional burdens on the people already in crisis, but will also make it difficult for humanitarian relief to reach the vulnerable populations most in need of humanitarian and life saving interventions". Most of the people in crisis or 75% of the 3.76 million people in need of assistance are concentrated in south and central Somalia - the areas where the fighting is greatest and which are most inaccessible to humanitarian operations. Given the context of an escalating civil war, FSNAU also issues an early warning for an even further deterioration in the humanitarian situation depending on the extent of the fighting in the coming weeks and months.

Emergency nutrition levels in several parts of the country have deteriorated further since January and now one in five children are acutely malnourished, while one in twenty are severely malnourished. Earlier this year the numbers were one in six children. These national rates of acute malnutrition are amongst the highest in the world. Currently, an estimated, 285,000 children under 5 years of age in Somalia are acutely malnourished, of which 70,000 are severely malnourished and are at an increased risk of death if they do not receive the appropriate specialist care. More than two thirds of these children are located in south and central Somalia.

The people currently in humanitarian crisis include 1.4 million rural people affected by a severe drought, 655,000 urban poor who continue to struggle with very high food and non-food prices, and more than 1.42 million internally displaced people (IDPs) who are fleeing from the fighting and conflict (see Map and Table on reverse side). The epicentre of the humanitarian crisis is in Mudug, Galgadud, Hiran and Bakool regions of south and central Somalia, where there is a two and a half year ongoing drought. Livestock herds have been decimated and destitute pastoralists are gathering in main villages and towns in search of assistance. The depth of the crisis in these areas is severe with up to 75% of the total population in Humanitarian Emergency.

The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) has increased significantly since the January, from 1 million to now more than 1.42 million people, a forty percent increase in six months. Most of the new IDPs are fleeing conflict and violence and are concentrated in the Shabelle and central regions. Nutrition surveys confirm that IDP populations are highly vulnerable, as IDPs consistently record higher median rates of global acute malnutrition rates, 20% compared to the non IDP rates of 18%.

There is also an alarming deterioration in the food security and nutrition situation of the pastoral and agropastoral communities in the north, caused by an emerging drought after 2-3 consecutive seasons of below normal rainfall. These areas are suffering from consecutive seasons of severe water shortages, stressed livestock migration, high livestock off-take and high debt levels. The situation is now deteriorating further, as indicated by increased malnutrition rates reaching the emergency level threshold of 15% in some areas. An estimated 255,000 people are identified in Acute Food and Livelihood Crisis, while another 25,000 are in Humanitarian Emergency. Unlike south and central Somalia, humanitarian access to these regions is good, therefore it is critical that these areas receive appropriate levels of emergency livelihood support and nutrition response, to prevent a further deterioration into Humanitarian Emergency.

For more information see website:, or email: