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After multiple shocks, the below-average 2020 deyr is anticipated to worsen food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Somalia
  • August 2020
After multiple shocks, the below-average 2020 deyr is anticipated to worsen food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Humanitarian food assistance needs are high across Somalia, where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes remain widespread. An estimated 3.5 million people in rural livelihood zones, urban areas, and IDP settlements need food assistance. In July, food assistance reached only 55 percent of the population in need. The below-average 2020 gu cereal harvest, economic impacts of COVID-19, and forecast of below-average deyr rainfall from October to December 2020 drive a worsening food security outlook through at least early 2021. Furthermore, a long-term decline in rainfall performance and preliminary climatological research suggest an elevated likelihood of below-average rainfall in the March to May 2021 season. Two consecutive poor seasons would likely result in rapidly worsening acute food insecurity in 2021.

    • In agropastoral areas, the gu harvest is below average. Erratic gu rainfall distribution from April to June resulted in both dry spells and floods that reduced crop production prospects. Production shortfalls are also still expected in southern coastal and adjacent inland areas, despite good hagaa rainfall in July and August that relatively improved local yields. Damage from bush cricket infestations is also significant, though desert locust has not been reported in the South. Below-average deyr rainfall is expected to result in a second consecutive season of below-average crop production. Due to crop losses and reduced agricultural labor income, deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected in nearly all agropastoral areas through at least early 2021.

    • In riverine areas, heavy rainfall during the gu season combined with heavy rainfall in river catchments in the Ethiopian highlands from June to August resulted in multiple flood events. Riverine communities in Hiiraan, Lower Shabelle, Middle Juba, Lower Juba, and Bay are the worst affected, where households were displaced and significant crop damage occurred. Due to the loss of main season crops and interference with off-season recessional cultivation activities, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected until the delayed off-season harvest in October.

    • In northern and central pastoral areas, the below-average deyr is expected to lead to lower milk availability, atypical migration, and higher expenditures on water, livestock feed, and transport among poor households, who already face low saleable livestock holdings and below-normal income sources to purchase food. Widespread deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is most likely through at least early 2021. In southern Somalia, however, poor households will have better coping capacity as a result of higher livestock holdings, higher local pasture availability, and higher milk availability from camel and cattle births in the hagaa and deyr seasons. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected, though Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is likely at the household level.


    COVID-19: Based on data from the Somalia Federal Ministry of Health and the WHO, the daily incidence of confirmed COVID-19 cases has declined since reaching its peak in late May while the case fatality rate has declined to 2.8 percent in late August after peaking at 5.4 percent in April. The cumulative positive testing rate has also declined from 43 percent in June to 26 percent in August (OCHA, 2020). However, due to low per capita testing and gaps in geographic coverage of testing, there is high concern that many cases may be undetected and the true spread of cases is higher than confirmed. The government lifted several COVID-19 movement restrictions in July and August. Local flights within Somalia and international flights to Somalia have resumed, though outbound flights from Somalia to Kenya are still suspended. Schools have re-opened, and normal population movement has resumed.

    Some of the most significant economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic include lower inflows of external remittances and lower livestock exports, which have implications for household income, business capital to import staple foods and pay employees, and Somali financial system liquidity. According to data collected by the World Bank from money transfer businesses on formal remittance flows, the USD value of remittances to businesses declined by 36 percent in April and 22 percent in May compared to April and May 2019, respectively. At the same time, the USD value of remittances to individuals declined by 15 percent in April 2019 compared to April 2020, though values recovered in May. Meanwhile, port authority data on formal livestock exports is beginning to show the impact of reduced international participation in the annual hajj, which took place in late July and early August. Although cumulative livestock exports from Bossasso and Berbera ports from January to June 2020 surged 50 percent higher than January to June 2019, livestock exports in July 2020 dropped to 60 percent below July 2020 (Figure 1). However, formal cross-border trade data show the regional livestock trade has rebounded by 70 percent in June-July compared to April-May following the re-opening of Garissa livestock market in Kenya.

    Rainfall performance: The April to June 2020 Gu rains concluded with mixed performance nationally, characterized by above-average rainfall in northern and central Somalia and below-average rainfall in much of southern Somalia. In general, the gu season ended up to 30 days earlier than normal, which led to deficits in the South despite significant floods in late April and early May. As previously reported, floods in the April/May period displaced hundreds of thousands of people to higher ground and damaged tens of thousands of hectares of farmland.

    The subsequent June to September hagaa and karan seasons show similarly mixed performance (Figure 2). Typically, this period is defined by light rainfall in coastal and adjacent inland areas in the South, light rainfall in the Northwest, and dry conditions in the rest of the country. In the South, heavy, above-average rainfall locally and in upstream areas in the Ethiopian highlands resulted in a second round of floods along the Juba and Shabelle rivers in low-lying areas in Gedo, Hiiraan, Middle Juba, and Middle and Lower Shabelle regions (Figure 3). The floods temporarily displaced households to higher ground in several flood-prone areas, including in Beletweyne and Jalalaqsi districts (Hiiraan), Balcad and Jowhar districts (Middle Shabelle), and Afgoye district (Lower Shabelle). FSNAU-led assessments of flood-related damage to crops are ongoing. In karan-dependent areas of the Northwest, the start of season was timely and cumulative rainfall is above average. In the rest of northern and central Somalia, where conditions are seasonally dry, the weather is hotter and windier than normal.

    Crop production: Based on preliminary assessments, the main season gu cereal harvest in agropastoral areas of southern and central Somalia is below average. The main threats to crop production in the South included damage from endemic bush crickets, some flooding in low-lying areas in April/May, and poor rainfall at critical sorghum crop development stages in May and June. No desert locust infestations are reported in the South, due to the seasonal Somali jet stream that has directed locust movement northward. In many areas, there are signs of moisture stress such as drooping leaves. One of the areas with the poorest crop production prospects is Bay-Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral livelihood zone. In Bakool, where some households did not have enough seeds to plant and some households opted to engage in ratoon cropping of sorghum, which farmers mainly practice during poor-performing seasons. Despite their efforts, pests and severe moisture stress damaged much of the ratoon crop. However, in Bay region, which receive hagaa rains, the hagaa rains have moderately improved crop production prospects. In these areas, it is estimated that farmers replanted more than half of their cropped land with maize and cowpea in late May due to cricket damage and the April/May floods.

    In riverine areas, farmers have suffered from multiple flood events during the gu and hagaa 2020 seasons, which damaged deyr 2019/20 off-season crops and gu 2020 main season crops. As a result, the main gu harvest in July/August is significantly below average in these areas. The subsequent hagaa floods in July/August have had mixed effects. On the one hand, the floods disrupted recessional cultivation activities and inundated crops. On the other hand, the rains are supporting late-planted gu main season crops and gu off-season crops and alleviated fears that the forecast of a below-average hagaa season would deplete soil moisture and negatively affect off-season crops. Extensive recessional cultivation started in late June, providing poor households with opportunities to cultivate own-produced crops and earn agricultural labor income on larger farms. In general, farmers have benefitted from improved access to water for irrigation. A key exception is in Qoryoley and Kurtunwaarey districts in Lower Shabelle, where farmers suspended hagaa cash crop cultivation activities because the irrigation system remains dysfunctional after insurgents destroyed parts of the irrigation infrastructure in February.

    In northwestern agropastoral areas, both the gu and karan rains have been cumulatively above average. However, gu rainfall was erratic and planted area was below normal due to poor households’ reduced ability to afford tractor tillage costs and fear of desert locusts. After the erratic gu rains, the better distribution of the karan rains has improved yield prospects for both late-planted, short-cycle yellow maize and long-cycle sorghum. Desert locust control operations have continued in the Northwest, and FSNAU-led assessments of damage from desert locusts is currently underway.

    Livestock production: Conditions for livestock production currently vary. In northern and central areas, goat milk availability is seasonally low while camel milk is atypically low due to below-normal herd sizes and births. In the South, the availability of camel and cattle milk is improving due to normal herd sizes and births in the gu season. Heavy gu rainfall and flash floods in April and May replenished water catchments and improved pasture conditions, even in northern coastal areas that do not typically receive gu rainfall. However, according to field reports, the early end of the gu rains, above-average temperatures, and strong, dry hagaa winds are accelerating the depletion of rain-harvested water. As a result, pastoralists in North/Central regions and a few parts of the South migrated earlier than normal to dry season grazing areas. According to satellite-derived imagery in August, vegetation conditions and waterpoint depth have declined since June but range from seasonally normal to above normal. Desert locust presence in northern and central areas has relatively declined, due to government-FAO control operations on nearly 42,000 hectares from May to July and due to the strong Somali jet stream winds that are pushing swarms toward Asia. In August, swarms are primarily concentrated in parts of Bari, Awdal, and Woqooyi Galbeed regions.

    Staple food prices: Household purchasing capacity, as measured by the terms of trade (ToT) to purchase a kilogram of cereal with a day’s wage or the sale of a goat, remained stable or slightly increased from June to July across most of the country. In July, domestic maize and sorghum availability are normal in most key reference markets as farmers release old stocks to pay for farming expenses and to prepare storage for new gu harvests. However, due to the impact of the recent floods on road infrastructure and market access, maize prices in Middle and Lower Juba reached 16,641 SOS/kg, which is the highest price on record since 2011 and is twice the July 2019 and five-year average (Figure 4). In the flood-affected Juba and Shabelle regions, the daily labor wage could only fetch 6-8 kgs of maize in July, which was 40 percent below July 2019 and 10-20 percent below the five-year average. Similarly, the sale of a local-quality goat could only purchase 63 kg of maize, which is the lowest ToT in the country and is 39 and 30 percent below July 2019 and the five-year average, respectively.

    In northern and central Somalia where households heavily rely on imported foods, the price of rice, wheat flour, sugar, and vegetable oil range from near average in Galgaduud and Togdheer regions to up to 53 percent above average in other regions. The highest prices were recorded in Sool. Although cross-border supplies from eastern Ethiopia are contributing to sorghum and wheat grain availability, international food imports declined in July according to port authority data. Rice, wheat flour, and sugar imports declined by 54, 10, and 22 percent, respectively, from June to July 2020 and were 36, 57, and 42 percent below July 2019, respectively. The impact on the goat-to-rice ToT, which ranges from 67-85 kg, therefore varies by region and is also driven by the trend in goat prices, which generally remain above average. In central regions, one local-quality goat is worth 70 kg of rice on average, which is 15 and 30 percent higher than July 2019 and five-year average, respectively. The ToT are lower in the Northwest, where one local-quality goat is worth 67 kg of rice, due to high cereal prices and declining of goat price due to decline of Hajj imports which overcrowded the markets.

    Humanitarian food assistance: The food security response in Somalia remains underfunded, resulting in a response that reached only 55 percent of the 3.5 million people in need of monthly food assistance in July. Humanitarian access constraints continue to impede food assistance delivery in large parts of the South, which limits the feasible target to 3.0 million people. However, according to food assistance distribution reports provided by the Somalia Food Security Cluster, humanitarian actors were only able to reach an average of 2.0 million beneficiaries monthly in the past three months from May to July. Notably, the average number of beneficiaries reached from January to July 2020 is 25 percent higher than the same period of 2019, but the significant increase in the population in need in 2020 outpaces the increase in assistance (Figure 5).

    Current food security outcomes: At the peak of the dry season in August/September, food security is deteriorating and indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in most rural livelihood zones in Somalia. Additionally, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread in urban areas and IDP settlements, where most poor households are unable to obtain their minimum food requirements without external food assistance or livelihoods support. According to UNICEF, the total number of children treated for life-threatening Severe Acute Malnutrition since January is 132,955, which is already close to reaching the UNICEF annual 2020 SAM target of 133,500 children.

    In northern and central pastoral areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes are driven by below-normal livestock holdings for sale, low milk consumption and sales, and atypical declines in other income sources, such as social support, due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected in several worst-affected areas, including in parts of Guban Pastoral, parts of East Golis Pastoral, and central Addun Pastoral and central Hawd Pastoral livelihood zones. Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are most likely in parts of Northern Inland Pastoral, Guban Pastoral, and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zones, where food assistance is playing a critical role in preventing food consumption gaps and depletion of livestock assets. In contrast, food security is improving in southern pastoral areas, where most poor households have near- to above-normal livestock holdings for sale and adequate camel and cattle milk for sale and consumption. Pasture availability is also above normal and likely to sustain normal livestock value, milk production, and reproduction throughout the dry season. Most southern pastoral areas are likely in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), though Stressed (IPC Phase 2) persists in pastoral areas of Gedo.

    In riverine and agropastoral areas, the impact of recent floods, erratic rainfall, pests, and conflict on the harvests and labor income continues to result in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is most likely in worst-affected riverine areas and parts of Bay Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral livelihood zone, where poor households have low capacity to cope with the poor main season gu harvest and delayed, below-average off-season gu harvest. Further, escalated conflict in Lower Shabelle suspended cropping activities in Qoryoley, Marka, Afgoye, and Wanlaweyn districts and displaced large populations to Mogadishu. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely in other agropastoral livelihood zones in the South and Northwest, where poor households have either been less affected by significant crop and asset losses or have more diversified income sources, giving them a relatively better ability to repay accrued debts for purchasing food.


    Revisions to the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Somalia Food Security Outlook from June 2020 to January 2021 include:

    • Based on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths by the Ministry of Health, daily case incidence has declined since June. However, given that per capita testing remains very low and movement restrictions are limited, the total number of COVID-19 cases are expected to continue to rise throughout the scenario period.
    • FSNAU is currently carrying out the main season and off-season gu production assessment. The production estimate will be available in September. Preliminary assessments confirm the harvests are most likely to be below average.
    • Based on cumulative hagaa and karan rainfall performance to date and the NOAA/CPC NMME September forecast, the hagaa and karan rainfall seasons are expected to be generally above average. In coastal and adjacent inland areas that receive hagaa rainfall, above-normal rangeland and water resources are expected through September. However, in the Bu’aale and Sakow districts of Middle Juba where hagaa rainfall was poor, rangeland availability is expected to decline.
    • Given that livestock prices have remained fairly stable and cumulative livestock exports from Berbera and Bosasso ports from January to July 2020 are only 10 percent below the same period of last year, livestock supply and demand are more stable than previously anticipated. Local-quality goat prices are projected to remain above average in most markets.
    • In riverine areas and in agropastoral areas that receive hagaa rains, atypically high river levels in July impeded recessional cultivation and suppressed agricultural labor demand. As a result of low wages and high staple food prices, the labor-to-cereal terms of trade are likely to remain significantly below average, despite an off-season peak in August/September.


    Food assistance needs in Somalia are already high in August/September. Furthermore, the October to December deyr rainfall season is forecast to be below average, which will be a determining factor for widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in most agropastoral and pastoral livelihood zones in the absence of humanitarian food assistance. In addition to widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3), the number of households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is likely to increase in areas of greatest concern, including in Bay Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral, central Addun Pastoral, central Hawd Pastoral, and Northern Inland Pastoral of Northwest. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are also expected to persist in urban areas and IDP settlements. Sustained food assistance is required through at least early 2021 to prevent deterioration in food security outcomes.

    In northern and central pastoral areas, poor rainfall will significantly affect livestock production amid already low livestock holdings and already below-normal income from other key sources due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. Although the average poor household has benefitted from improved herd growth in 2020 relative to previous years, and although medium to high livestock births are expected during the deyr, livestock herd sizes will generally remain below normal and water resources will be depleted earlier than normal. As a result of both persistently low livestock holdings and below-average rainfall, household milk consumption and milk sales will be below normal by late 2020. Below-average rainfall is also associated with atypical livestock migration patterns; higher expenditures on water, livestock feed, and/or transport; and resource-based conflict. Many poor households remain highly indebted from recurrent climate shocks since 2016, and will either increasingly engage in unsustainable livestock sales to purchase food or face food consumption gaps. The only exception is West Golis Pastoral livelihood zone, where poor households are better positioned to cope and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to higher herd sizes and the seasonal benefits from the ongoing local karan rains.

    In nearly all agropastoral livelihood zones, most poor households will have already depleted their own-produced gu cereal stocks by the start of the second agricultural lean season in October and are unlikely to earn enough agricultural labor income during the deyr season to purchase their minimum food needs. Labor demand for weeding and harvesting is expected to be below normal due to the poor rains, which will reduce poor households’ income from agricultural labor. Due to both low cereal market supply and declining labor demand and wages during the below-average deyr rainfall season, below-normal labor-to-cereal terms of trade will limit both their level of income and their purchasing power. The only exception is Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone, which will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the arrival of the karan harvest in November.

    In riverine areas, food insecurity is expected to worsen in the near term due to prevailing, below-average labor-to-cereal terms of trade in August and September. However, food security outcomes are expected to improve from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) after the start of green maize and cowpea consumption in mid-September and the full establishment of the delayed, gu off-season harvest in October. Combined with seasonal fish availability, some agricultural labor income during the deyr, and the opportunity to engage in continuous recessional cultivation following the recent floods, household food availability and access are most likely to be adequate from October to January. 

    In contrast to the rest of the country, southern pastoral areas are expected to have sufficient livestock holdings to cope with the poor rainfall season. Livestock health is expected to be normal heading into the deyr season, given currently normal to above-normal pasture and water availability in most areas, apart from parts of Middle Juba. With medium to high livestock births expected during the deyr, milk consumption and sales will likely sustain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through early January. However, in order to cope with higher food prices, poor households are likely to reduce their consumption of own-produced milk in exchange for increasing milk sales. They are also likely to sell a few more livestock than usual to fund food purchases and repay debts. Some households will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Line graph showing the trend in total monthly livestock exports out of Bossasso and Berbera ports from January 2018 to July 2

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: data from Bossasso and Berbera port authorities

    Map of Somalia showing rainfall accumulation from June 1 to August 25 as a percent of the long-term average

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    Line graph showing the change in the Shabelle river water level at Beletweyne and Jowhar river stations as of August 21st com

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    Source: FAO SWALIM

    Line and bar graph comparing the retail price of Maize in Bu'aale, Middle Juba, from January 2018 to July 2020 compared to th

    Figure 5

    Figure 4

    Source: FSNAU data

    Bar chart showing the monthly number of beneficiaries that received emergency humanitarian food assistance from July 2018 to

    Figure 6

    Figure 5

    Source: Somalia Food Security Cluster data

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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