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<i>Deyr</i> rainfall to aid drought recovery but cause damaging flooding in some areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Somalia
  • August 2023
Deyr rainfall to aid drought recovery but cause damaging flooding in some areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through January 2024
  • Key Messages
    • Despite seasonal improvements during the 2023 gu, prolonged impacts of the historic multi-year drought – including severe asset depletion and debt – continue to constrain food access for poor households across most of Somalia. In several areas, sustained levels of humanitarian assistance at levels higher than previously anticipated (targeting more than 3 million people per month in July and August) are mitigating worse outcomes. However, a scale-down to around 2 million people each month is expected by the October to December period. This is expected to drive deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in several displacement settlements and contribute to severe outcomes in other areas. 
    • In August, most pastoral households are facing constrained access to food and income due to below-normal livestock holdings and seasonally low and below-normal livestock milk production during the June to September hagaa dry season. Many pastoral areas continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in the worst drought-affected Addun Pastoral and Coastal Deeh Pastoral livelihood zones given particularly low livestock ownership and access to milk alongside the impacts of conflict and comparatively lower levels of humanitarian food assistance. Though improvements in livestock and milk production are expected in the October to December 2023 deyr season, only low to medium sheep births are anticipated in Coastal Deeh, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes expected to persist. Meanwhile, livestock holdings and milk production are near normal in pastoral areas of the Jubas and Shabelles, driving better outcomes. 
    • In agropastoral areas, the main season gu harvest is concluding, boosting many households’ access to food and income from crop production. However, many poor households had to sell a large share of their harvest to pay debts. As such, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in some agropastoral areas where early cessation of gu rainfall reduced crop production and labor opportunities. Meanwhile, deterioration to Emergency IPC Phase 4) is now expected in riverine areas given anticipated severe impacts of flooding on main-season crop production during the deyr.Given funding constraints and the absence of a strong emergency response plan, emergency humanitarian assistance to flood-affected populations is likely to be delayed and insufficient to meet anticipated high levels of need. 
    • Forecasts now indicate a strong El Niño and a strong, positive IOD; consequently, cumulative rainfall during the October to December deyr season is now expected to be farther above average than previously anticipated. This forecast brings both opportunities and risks for rural populations. In general, above-average rainfall is expected to be beneficial for crop and livestock production, supporting ongoing gradual drought recovery. However, severe flooding in riverine and low-lying agropastoral areas in southern Somalia will likely drive displacement, delay and disrupt agricultural activities, destroy property and assets, and lead to atypical livestock deaths. Risk of livestock and human diseases will be elevated. 

    Current Situation

    Rainfall performance: The April to June 2023 gu rainy season concluded with mixed performance and, consequently, mixed impacts on crop production and rangeland conditions. However, as Somalia emerges from the historic 2020-2023 drought, this was still the best-performing gu season in three years. According to both CHIRPS remote sensing data and ground information, the 2023 gu season was characterized by early to timely onset of rains and average to above-average precipitation in March and April, followed by early cessation of rains between early and mid-May across most of the country. Overall, most northern areas and some central and southern areas (in the Juba and Gedo regions) received average to above-average cumulative rainfall amounts, though rainfall distribution over time and space varied. In contrast, most of south-central Somalia received below-average cumulative rainfall, with deficits of 25-100 mm or more, according to data from CHIRPS. 

    Meanwhile, heavy rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands caused water levels in the Juba and Shabelle rivers to rise rapidly in March and April, driving localized flooding in riverine areas of Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle, Gedo, and Juba regions during the March to May period. These floods caused population displacement, prevented normal marketing and trade activities, and disrupted gu cropping activities, though later provided riverine areas with opportunities for off-season recessional cultivation the July-September period. 

    The regional June to September hagaa and karan rainy seasons – typically characterized by light rains over southern and northwestern areas of the country, respectively – have to date performed poorly, reducing typical support for standing late-planted and off-season crops. Despite earlier forecasts for above-average rainfall during these seasons, cumulative rainfall has been largely below average, with erratic intensity and distribution, according to both field reports and CHIRPS remote sensing data. Notable negative impacts are expected for July-September karan sorghum crop production in northwestern agropastoral areas. Meanwhile, though production levels of the July-September off-season crops in parts of the southern Juba and Shabelle regions are also expected to be affected, negative impacts are expected to be comparatively moderate given that moisture from the receded floods is providing some support to crop growth. 

    Livestock production: Following below-average and early cessation of April to June gu rainfall in many south-central areas, the July to September hagaa dry season has to date been characterized by above-normal temperatures, strong winds, and poor hagaa and karan rainfall in southern and northwestern areas, respectively. This has generally exacerbated seasonal deterioration of pasture and water conditions in most pastoral and agropastoral areas. According to field observations, areas that have experienced detrimental impacts throughout the season include parts of Guban Pastoral and East Golis Pastoral livelihood zones along the northern coast, Coastal Deeh Pastoral areas of the northeast and central regions, large parts of Hawd Pastoral and Addun Pastoral areas in the central region, most pastoral and agropastoral areas of Hiiraan, and sorghum-producing agropastoral areas of Middle Shabelle. Overall, pasture and water availability are currently expected to be below average in most northern and central regions and Hiiraan (Figure 1); meanwhile, in the southern regions, though vegetation greenness as measured by NDVI is below average, dry pasture is expected to be largely available. Across the country, shortages of rangeland resources are also being mitigated by opportunities for migration to neighboring livelihood zones, operational boreholes, and partially depleted private concrete water reservoirs (berkads).

    Despite some slight seasonal deterioration during the July to September hagaa dry season to date, livestock body conditions have markedly improved compared to the same time last year, enhancing the value of animals for sale. However, herd sizes are still below baseline levels in most pastoral and agropastoral areas, limiting households’ ability to benefit from food and income associated with livestock production and sales. During the hagaa season, overall low camel and cattle births have been observed in most pastoral areas of the south and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zone; elsewhere, camel and cattle have largely not given birth. Notably, milk production from large ruminants is low across most of the country, though better near-normal levels are reported in the Juba and Shabelle regions.

    Figure 2

    Main-season gu cereal crop production in southern regions of Somalia, 1995-2023 compared to five-year average and long-term (1995-2022) mean (LTM)
    Main-season gu cereal crop production in southern regions of Somalia, 1995-2023 compared to five-year average and long-term (1995-2022) mean (LTM).

    Source: FEWS NET, using data from the Somalia FSC

    Crop production: According to FSNAU crop production estimates made in July, 2023 gu main-season cereal production in southern Somalia (the main cereal-producing region of the country) is estimated at nearly 74,000 MT (Figure 2). This is 13 percent higher than the five-year average given improvement compared to recent drought-affected seasons. However, production levels are still expected to be 34 percent lower than the long-term (1995-2022) average, largely due to the impacts of the prolonged dry spell that marked the early cessation of gu rainfall in May; production losses in riverine areas due to severe flooding; the impacts of intensified conflict and insecurity; and localized pest infestations. 

    More recently, the poor hagaa rains and prevailing hotter than normal and windy conditions have accelerated depletion of soil moisture in southern areas, retarding the growth of standing late-planted and off-season crops. In widespread rainfed agropastoral areas, much of the standing late-planted cereal crop has experienced severe moisture stress and is unlikely to reach maturity. Meanwhile, in riverine areas where the floods provided moisture, much of the off-season recessional crop has exhibited retarded growth but has not experienced severe moisture stress. 

    In the northwest, FSNAU estimated in July that 2023 gu/karan cereal production would total approximately 14,000 MT, including 12,000 MT of long-cycle sorghum (expected to be harvested in November 2023) and 2,000 MT of yellow maize (harvested in July 2023). The total production estimate is 48 percent below the long-term (1998-2022) average, largely due to the negative impacts of the prolonged dry spell since May. However, production is now expected to be even lower than this estimate due to subsequent poor karan rainfall. High prices of farm inputs and crop damage due to pest infestations have also contributed to below-average production.

    Markets and trade: Across the country, household purchasing power as measured by the terms of trade (ToT)1 between labor wage rates and staple cereal prices remained stable or slightly increased from July to August 2023. Though trends were mixed, improvements were driven by declining cereal prices in many cases. In August, availability of maize and sorghum has increased alongside gu harvesting in July/August as traders and farmers release old stocks and early harvests, putting downward pressure on prices. Currently, household purchasing power is also somewhat better than at the same time last year given significantly declining cereal prices alongside stable or improving labor wage rates across most of the country. However, some riverine areas – especially in parts of Juba and Gedo – are experiencing high maize prices due to below-average production driven by low river levels or floods. 

    In pastoral areas of Somalia (mainly in the northern and central regions) where households rely heavily on imported foods, prices of imported rice, wheat flour, sugar, and vegetable oil in August 2023 ranged from near the five-year average in Galgaduud and Togdheer regions to up to 20 percent above average in other regions. The highest prices were recorded in Sool, at least partly attributable to the impacts of recent conflict on trade flows. Purchasing power for pastoralists as measured by the ToT between goat prices and rice prices in August 2023 vary highly by region, ranging from 45-80 kg of rice purchasable from the sale of one goat, and are largely being driven by trends in goat prices. In Mudug region, one local-quality goat is worth 82 kg of rice, on average, which is 37 and 17 percent higher than in August 2022 and the five-year average, respectively. Meanwhile, in the northwest region, the ToT are lower, with the sale of one local-quality goat able to fetch 50-60 kg of rice, due to high cereal prices and low goat prices alongside competition from goats supplied from Ethiopia which overcrowd the markets. 

    Humanitarian food assistance: In contrast to earlier expectations for significant scale-down after June (when 3.2 million people were reached), the total number of beneficiaries reached with humanitarian food assistance has remained fairly stable in July and August, with around 3.3 million people and 3.1 million people reached, respectively. However, this number of beneficiaries is significantly lower than the more than 6 million reached at the peak of assistance provision in September 2022. Since that time, assistance has been gradually scaled down.

    Current food security outcomes

    Internally-displaced persons (IDPs) have been separated from livelihoods and social support networks, generally no longer own productive assets, and have low diversity of income-earning strategies. Despite declining cereal prices since this time last year, most IDP households continue to struggle to meet their food and non-food needs given high dependency on low-paying casual labor opportunities against the prevailing overall high cost of living. Access to social support remains low, largely due to competition from poor urban households with better connections within host urban communities. Even with the continued provision of significant humanitarian assistance in July and August in many major IDP settlements – including Mogadishu (Banadir), Dolow (Gedo), Kismayo (Lower Juba), Beledweyne (Hiiraan), Garowe (Nugaal), and Bossaso (Bari) – a significant share of IDPs living in settlements continue to face food consumption gaps, with worst-affect households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in several settlements. However, given the higher than previously anticipated levels of assistance – as well as improved labor opportunities and wage rates – almost all IDP settlements are currently classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) at the area level. The exception is for IDP settlements in the Laasanood district of Sool region, where the ongoing conflict is significantly disrupting typical livelihoods, market supply, social services (health and education) and humanitarian access. Households now living in displacement settlements have been separated from assets, typical income-earning opportunities (casual labor and self-employment), and community support networks. Income-earning opportunities are very scarce. Many households are expected to be facing moderate to large food consumption gaps, and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are currently expected at the area level.

    In pastoral livelihood zones, the favorable 2023 gu rainfall season had positive impacts on pasture and livestock production. However, many poor pastoral households in northern and central Somalia continue to contend with significantly below-normal (30-40 percent of baseline) livestock holdings. Currently in August, most pastoral households are facing seasonally limited and below-normal livestock milk production during the June to September hagaa dry season. Many are likely facing food consumption gaps. At the area level, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread. Additionally, in the worst drought-affected Addun Pastoral and Coastal Deeh Pastoral livelihood zones, FEWS NET observed particularly low levels of livestock holdings among poor households during field assessments conducted in July. In these zones, poor households face highly limited livestock milk production and limited saleable animals, which typically contribute most of households’ total food and income. This is forcing atypically high reliance on markets for food at above-average prices. At the same time, increased levels of conflict are restricting population movement and access to grazing areas, causing trade disruptions, and restricting humanitarian access to insurgent-controlled areas. As such, FEWS NET assesses that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist in these zones. On the other hand, in parts of the south where livestock holdings and milk production are near normal, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are likely.

    In riverine livelihood zones of southern Somalia, devastating floods in April/May 2023 drove population displacement and inundated farmland, disrupting agricultural activities and destroying both standing deyr off-season crops and early-planted main-season gu crops. As a result, main-season gu crop production was negligible in many affected areas, and households currently do not have food stocks. Though ongoing recessional cultivation is currently providing agriculture labor opportunities, a significant proportion of households in riverine livelihoods are currently facing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    In agropastoral livelihood zones, the extended dry spell during critical crop growth stages in May/June as well as crop damage due to pests led to below-average 2023 gu crop production in some areas, driving below-average opportunities for agricultural labor and reducing household food stocks. Given that households in previously drought-affected areas likely sold much of their harvest to repay debts, many poor agropastoral households are likely maintaining high dependence on markets for food even in the post-harvest period. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected at the area level in Bay, Bakool, agropastoral areas of the central region, and in the Northwestern Agropastoral and Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zones in the northwestern region. 

    In urban areas, poor households are benefiting from declining local cereal prices and stable imported commodity prices. Furthermore, opportunities for labor and wage rates in most urban areas have remained stable compared to last year and average levels. As a result, poor households’ purchasing power has improved compared to the same time last year when local food prices were at record high levels. However, the cost of living remains high overall. In July 2023, the cost of the minimum expenditure basket was 12-44 percent above average in most urban areas, straining poor households’ limited available resources. As such, most urban areas are currently classified in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) at the area level, with worst-affected poor households likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Updated Assumptions

    Revisions to the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Somalia Food Security Outlook for June 2023 to January 2024 are below; the remainder are unchanged:

    • Given evolving forecasts for a strong El Niño and a strong, positive IOD, cumulative rainfall during the October to December deyr season is now expected to be farther above average than what was previously anticipated, though parts of the northeastern regions – typically much drier than the rest of the country – may receive approximately normal rainfall amounts.
    • Given the evolving forecast for above-average deyr rainfall, severe river and flash flooding is expected to impact riverine areas of the Juba and Shabelle regions and lowland agropastoral and pastoral areas across Somalia in the October to December period.
    • The anticipated above-average rainfall and flooding is likely to cause hypothermia and atypical livestock deaths, particularly in most south/central regions, and some areas in northern regions.
    • Levels of flood-driven displacement are likely to be above normal, with more widespread areas – especially in riverine livelihood zones – now anticipated to be affected.
    • Above-average rainfall and associated flooding are likely to delay deyr cropping activities due to excessive soil wetness, delaying households’ access to income from agricultural labor.  
    • Episodes of rainfall and flooding are likely to cause damage to standing crops in localized affected areas.
    • Episodes of heavy rainfall and flooding are expected to result in periods of access constraints due to impassible roads, temporarily disrupting trade and population movement. Disruptions to trade are expected to drive atypical food price increases in consumer markets where supplies cannot reach. On the other hand, downward pressure on prices is expected in surplus-producing areas that are cut-off from trade. 
    • Above-average rainfall and flooding are likely to result in contamination of rain-harvested drinking water in open catchment and communal dams, driving atypically high waterborne disease incidence.
    • Given poor hagaa and karan rainfall performance in July and August, off-season cereal production is now expected to be below previously anticipated levels. In the northwest, production now is anticipated to be significantly below normal, with the long-cycle sorghum harvest expected in November. In the southern region, off-season production is likely to be below normal with the harvest expected in late August/September. 
    • According to the latest plans from the Food Security Cluster, the provision of humanitarian food assistance will be further gradually scaled down in the coming months, with around 2 million people across the country reached with assistance monthly in the October to December 2023 period. The scale-down will also affect IDP settlements; in most settlements, around 7-19 percent of the population is expected to be reached in the October to December period (ranging from 7 percent in Bossaso to 19 percent in Beledweyne and Laascaanood). Assistance will continue to reach around 25 percent or more of the population only in Baidoa, Hudur, and Dolow settlements. In the absence of plans, the number of beneficiaries reached in January 2024 is anticipated to be similar to the number reached in the October to December 2023 period. 

    Projected Outlook through January 2024

    September will be the last month of the hagaa dry season, when no livestock births are expected and milk production will be at seasonally low levels. Given this and seasonally low levels of agricultural activity, food security outcomes are expected to remain generally unchanged in September. 

    In the October 2023 to January 2024 period, IDPs living in settlements are expected to face declining levels of humanitarian food assistance. At the same time, additional population displacement is likely given sustained conflict in the south-central and Sool regions and expected heavy rains and flooding in the upcoming October-December deyr season. The further influx of IDPs will place additional strain on already limited available income-earning opportunities and community resources. As such, deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected in several IDP settlements, with the greatest concern for IDPs in Baidoa, Beletweyne, Hargeisa, Kismayo, and Laascaanood towns.

    In pastoral areas, medium to high births among small ruminants during the October 2023 to January 2024 period are expected to lead to herd size growth and seasonal access to milk. Meanwhile, most pastoral areas are expected to see only low camel and cattle births starting in December due to poor conceptions during the 2022 deyr, with the lowest birth rates expected in central Somalia and some parts of the northwest. Meanwhile, slightly better birth rates are expected in the southern Juba, Shabelle, and Gedo regions. In most areas, increased livestock sales and milk consumption during the deyr are expected to allow many poor households to repay some debt and access further credit/debt to purchase food. Many pastoral areas will see improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), though worst-affected households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in most northern and central pastoral areas where poor households’ livestock holdings and milk production will remain largely below baseline levels. In northern areas, anticipated heavy rainfall and flooding will also likely cause hypothermia and livestock deaths as well as disruptions to typical fishing and frankincense livelihood activities in affected areas. Additionally, though seasonal improvements are expected in most pastoral areas, some pastoral areas in the south are expected to deteriorate from Minimal (IPC Phase 1) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) given expectations for heavy rainfall and flooding, anticipated to result in atypical livestock deaths, reduced income from livestock and milk sales, and disruptions to movement and marketing activities.

    Meanwhile, in the Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing livelihood zone of the central region where the provision humanitarian assistance is comparatively limited, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist given the severe and lasting impacts of six drought seasons. In this livelihood zone, poor households will continue to contend with highly limited livestock holdings (mostly sheep) and significantly below-average milk production given only low to medium sheep births anticipated in the coming deyr season. Additionally, access constraints due to conflict will likely lead to temporary periods of disrupted market access, challenging households’ ability to sell livestock. Humanitarian access to insurgent-controlled areas of the zone will also remain limited. 

    In agropastoral areas, above-average rainfall during the October to December deyr season is expected to support crop production overall, increasing households’ access to income from seasonal agricultural labor opportunities. However, heavy rainfall and flooding will likely delay and disrupt agricultural activities in many areas, reducing availability of labor opportunities and putting downward pressure on wage rates. During this time, poor households’ cereal stocks will be limited or depleted given that most poor households sold a notable share of their gu cereal production to repay debts, increasing dependence on market purchases. Given limited assets and high debt levels following the historic drought, above-average food prices, and additional negative impacts of heavy rainfall and flooding – including population displacement, disruption to livelihoods and trade, and asset losses – Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are now anticipated across most agropastoral areas in the October to January period, with agropastoral lowlands in the valleys mainly in the Jubas, Gedo, Bakool, Hiiraan, and Middle Shabelle regions likely to be worst affected by flash flooding. Meanwhile, comparatively better Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected in south-central agropastoral areas where livestock holdings are higher and better livestock birth rates and milk production are anticipated. In January, the start of deyr harvesting will provide some additional support to many households, reducing the number facing food consumption gaps, though areas that experience delayed planting will likely not access any food from the harvest during the scenario period. 

    In northwestern agropastoral areas, the gu/karan harvest is expected in November, somewhat improving food availability. However, crop production is now expected to be significantly below normal given poor karan rainfall. Overall, poor households will likely use most of their income from crop production and crop fodder sales to repay debts. Though medium birth rates among cattle and small ruminant during the deyr will improve milk production, most poor households will remain dependent on market purchases for a notable share of their food. Given worse-than-anticipated gu/karan crop production, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to be sustained.

    In most riverine livelihood zones, poor households are expected to harvest off-season crops in September, improving food consumption and allowing households to pay some debts. However, during the deyr, flooding is expected to drive population displacement and inundate farmland in many riverine areas, largely preventing main-season deyr cropping activities. Poor households who remain will face significantly reduced opportunities for agricultural labor – typically poor households’ most important source of income source – during this time. Poor households will likely quickly exhaust any remaining available food stocks. Given funding constraints and the absence of ready response plans, humanitarian food assistance in the aftermath of floods is likely to be delayed and overall insufficient to meet the high levels of need. Poor households will likely rely on the consumption of wild foods – including fish and wild fruits – but this is expected to be inadequate for many poor households to meet their minimum food needs. In worst-affected areas, many poor households are expected to face food consumption gaps, with more than 20 percent of the population likely to experience moderate to large food consumption gaps characteristic of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In December 2023, the start of recessional cultivation will improve the availability of agricultural labor opportunities, boosting access to income and reducing the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. 

    Table 1
    Possible events that would change the most likely outlook through January 2024
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    Riverine and agropastoral livelihood zonesExceptionally heavy October to December 2023 deyr rainfall, leading to extreme flooding (beyond what is currently anticipated and in line with the severe flooding experienced in 1997, 2006, and 2019)

    In agropastoral areas, this would be expected to lead to more widespread negative impacts on the deyr agricultural season. These impacts include delayed planting and damage to germinating crops, reduced opportunities for income-earning during the season, delayed access to the harvest, and reduced overall crop production prospects. More areas would be likely to experience elevated incidence of livestock hypothermia and higher rates of livestock mortality. Additional poor households in affected agropastoral areas (especially those close to riverine areas) would likely face food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3), Emergency (IPC Phase 4), or worse outcomes. 


    In riverine areas, extreme flooding would likely drive notable population displacement, beyond what is currently anticipated. Flood waters would likely not recede in time to allow for any recessional cultivation activities, and households would therefore not experience the currently anticipated seasonal increases in income-earning from agricultural labor opportunities beginning in December. More significant and widespread disruptions to livelihoods and typical income-earning activities would likely cause additional poor households to face moderate to wide consumption gaps in line with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Somalia Food Security Outlook Update August 2023: Deyr rainfall to aid drought recovery but cause damaging flooding in some areas, 2023.


    This is a proxy indicator for purchasing power, calculated as the ratio between the value of one unit of income-earning (ex: a day of labor, at prevailing wage rates) and one unit of staple food (ex: price of 1kg of cereals) at the same point in time

    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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