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Conflict and displacement increase food insecurity in southern Somalia

  • Alert
  • Somalia
  • March 26, 2014
Conflict and displacement increase food insecurity in southern Somalia

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    Food security is likely to deteriorate in southern Somalia, particularly in Lower and Middle Shabelle Regions, due to intensified conflict, erratic rainfall from April to June, and their impacts on agricultural labor demand and staple food prices. Food insecurity in Lower and Middle Shabelle and nearby areas is likely to reach Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this period. In addition, displacement related to the conflict, other interruptions to agricultural activities, and the erratically distributed April to June rains, will likely lead to below-average July/August Gu harvests, especially in Lower Shabelle, meaning that total, national food availability will be lower and food prices are likely to rise, increasing food insecurity across a larger area of southern Somalia. Given very limited humanitarian access in Lower and Middle Shabelle, traditional in-kind aid deliveries are unlikely. Creative response mechanisms should be developed and implemented to address rising needs.


    Federal Government of Somalia troops, supported by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), have been advancing into Bakool, Hiraan, Gedo, Bay, and Lower Shabelle Regions since February (Figure 1). In Lower Shabelle, the fighting has moved into the densely populated maize belt along the Shabelle River and is approaching Qoryoley, a town 120 kilometers from Mogadishu. According to field reports, Al Shabaab has instructed local populations not to flee to government-controlled areas. Nonetheless, significant displacement has already occurred, primarily towards coastal areas including Merka, Afgoye, and Mogadishu. Given this displacement from Lower Shabelle, standing off-season cash crops and some irrigated crops that would usually be harvested in March, mostly sesame, have been left unattended. They are likely to be consumed by livestock.

    Due to disruptions in trade and limited stocks from the below average January/February Deyr harvest, the retail white maize price in Qoryoley increased 17 percent from January to February, a time of year when prices are usually stable. Similarly, agricultural labor wage rates in riverine areas have decreased, unseasonably, by an average of 32 percent since September 2013. These reduced agricultural and urban wages, in combination with increasing cereal prices have resulted in declines in purchasing power. In Afgoye, for instance, a day’s labor could purchase less maize in February than it could at any point in the past two years. Similar trends were found in other riverine towns (Figure 2).

    Displacement, along with reduced access to farmland is likely to lead to well below average planted area. Flooding of the Shabelle River in April is likely, and would further reduce the land available for cultivation this year. Many areas will likely remain fallow this season. For poor households, income from agricultural labor will decline further as a result. Better-off riverine farmers will have less income from crop sales in July/August. At a national level, a minimal harvest in Lower Shabelle would significantly affect food availability as Lower Shabelle provides up to 40 percent of total Gu cereals in a typical year. Such a decline in market supplies would likely lead to increasing prices in anticipation of the poor harvest during the April to June lean season. In addition, prices during the post-harvest period, when the Gu harvest would usually lead to falling or stable prices, are likely to be unseasonably high. As a result, food security outcomes will likely deteriorate in the Shabelle Valley to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the April to June lean season. Following the July/August harvests, reduced domestic supply of maize and increased cereal prices will likely affect all of South-Central Somalia. An increasing proportion of households in southern Somalia, including households outside of the conflict-affected areas, may move into Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3), during the second half of 2014.

    A growing population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will require assistance in Afgoye, Mogadishu, and other areas. Most of Lower and Middle Shabelle is not accessible to humanitarian agencies, and therefore direct distributions of in-kind assistance are unlikely to be possible for the most affected populations. Non-traditional response mechanisms should be developed and implemented to address rising needs.

    Figures Figure 1. Areas of conflict, March 2014

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Areas of conflict, March 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Day labor wage rate to white maize terms of trade (ToT)

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Day labor wage rate to white maize terms of trade (ToT)

    Source: Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit-Somalia (FSNAU)/FEWS NET

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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