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Northern regions of Somalia face deteriorating access to food and water, increasing food insecurity

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  • Somalia
  • February 11, 2016
Northern regions of Somalia face deteriorating access to food and water, increasing food insecurity

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  • Situation

  • Summary

    After below-average 2015 rainfall, much of northern Somalia is facing very poor pasture conditions, limited water availability, high livestock out-migration, and elevated livestock death rates. As a result, incomes are significantly below average and poor households are having difficulty meeting their basic food needs. An estimated 146,200 people in northern Somalia are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in Guban Pastoral, Northwestern Agropastoral, and Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones. The scaling up of humanitarian assistance is necessary to avert a food security Crisis in northern Somalia.


    In northwestern areas, below average rainfall and higher than normal temperatures throughout 2015 reduced pasture and water availability. In northeastern areas, atypical dry conditions from July to August were followed by below-average October to December rainfall that led to significant livestock out-migration and unusually high livestock deaths. Rain station data recorded by FAO SWALIM shows that rainfall over this time period in northeastern areas was approximately 30 percent of the long-term mean (Figure 1). As a result, pasture throughout northern Somalia remains extremely limited and water for both livestock and human use is scarce. Most communal dams and private reservoirs (berkads) are dry and distances traveled to livestock watering boreholes have increased. Of particular concern are Guban Pastoral livelihood zone in Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed Regions, Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone in Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed Regions, and Northern Inland Pastoral in Bari, Sanaag and Nugaal Regions.

    In Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, pasture resources and water availability increased slightly after the region received atypical, moderate rainfall in October and November. Livestock that migrated out of Guban in early 2015 began returning in December. However, improved pasture has also encouraged the inward migration of livestock from Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone and other neighboring regions, putting pressure on the limited, replenished pasture and water. Despite slight improvements, herd sizes remain below average as a result of the high livestock deaths in this area in early 2015. Livestock productivity is very low, limiting household access to milk, and households have few saleable animals, reducing income. An estimated 13,300 people in Guban Pastoral are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone, as a result of the poor 2015 rainfall, November/December crop production was below average and pasture conditions remain very poor. With few stocks and below-average livestock productivity, households are restricting food consumption. An estimated 62,900 people in this livelihood zone are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). It is expected that the sale and consumption of fruits and vegetables from January to March 2016 are likely to increase food security slightly, but not enough to move this area out of Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    In Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zone, pasture and water are both very scarce. Many households are now purchasing expensive, trucked-in water. The January 2016 price of a 20-liter jerry can of water in this area was approximately 7,000 Somali Shillings, 60 and 20 percent above the last-year and the five-year average, respectively. Recent FEWS NET field assessments found that nearly 70 percent of livestock from this zone have been migrated towards neighboring regions where moderate rains have slightly improved pasture and water availability. This has put pressure on the resources of recipient regions. Livestock have lost weight due to the lack of forage, long trekking distances, and overall poor health. Low conception rates were reported in November and a further reduction in goat kidding and camel calving is expected in April/May, reducing herd sizes. By mid-December, as a result of a significant decrease in livestock prices, the goat-to-rice terms of trade in this area declined by 31 and 38 percent compared to the 2014 and five-year average, respectively. With reduced household purchasing capacity, poor households are no longer consuming milk and meat, as is typical at this time of year, and have diets limited to cereals, sugar, and vegetable oil. Many households are increasingly relying on credit to purchase food: reported debt levels for poor households atypically increased 42 percent from July to December 2015. An estimated 70,000 people in Northern Inland Pastoral are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    With the poor 2015 rainfall performance in northern Somalia, 146,200 people in people in Northern Inland Pastoral, Guban Pastoral, and Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zones are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Conditions are likely to improve slightly in April as average Gu rains are expected to improve pasture and water availability. However, given the depletion of assets and increasing debt levels, poor households are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) even after the February-March lean season. It is likely poor households in these areas will continue to face significant difficulty meeting their basic food needs, have limited access to water for personal and livestock consumption, and experience the unsustainable depletion of assets given elevated livestock death rates. The scaling up of humanitarian assistance is necessary to avert this food security Crisis in northern Somalia.


    Figure 1

    Deyr (October - December) 2015 Station Rainfall Performance Compared to Average

    Source: Data from FAO SWALIM

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