Skip to main content

Despite improvements, 2.7 million people need emergency assistance through the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Somalia
  • February - September 2018
Despite improvements, 2.7 million people need emergency assistance through the lean season

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Large assistance needs will continue throughout 2018, with worst-affected populations in northern and central pastoral areas facing larger gaps in their basic food needs. Although a better than expected October to December 2018 rainy season contributed to a reduction in the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), humanitarian assistance also played a large role in driving improvements. There is high concern food security would deteriorate considerably in this absence of assistance, with an estimated 2.7 million people expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse by June 2018. Continued assistance is needed throughout much of the country to protect lives and livelihoods.

    • The 2018 Gu season is forecast to be below average and, as a result, access to typical sources of food and income, including agricultural labor, crop production, and livestock sales, will remain below average throughout the projection period. Pastoralists in northern and central regions lost a large number of livestock in 2017 and the recovery of herds to pre-crisis levels will require several consecutive, favorable seasons.  

    • Food security outcomes are expected to be most severe between March and June, when Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in Guban Pastoral, Addun Pastoral, and the western half of Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones. During this time, poor households will lack access to milk and have few saleable livestock to purchase food. Of greatest concern is Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, where atypical livestock deaths are occurring and households face an extreme loss of income. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period in this livelihood zone. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation 

    The October to December 2017 Deyr rainy season was the fourth consecutive below-average season in Somalia, and rainfall totals ranged from 10 to 60 percent below average in many areas of the country (Figure 1). Rainfall deficits were most significant in northern regions, where many areas received less than 40 percent of normal rainfall. Rainfall totals were closer to average, and in some areas above average, in southern and central regions. However, rainfall was erratically distributed across time: little to no rainfall was received in October, significantly above-average rainfall was received in November, and only light rainfall was received in December.  

    Due to the poor start of season and shorted growing period, some areas experienced significant crop losses. Overall, though, rainfall totals in November and December were sufficient for normal crop development in most southern regions, and total cereal production is estimated at 78,100 metric tons (MT), 79 percent of the 1995-2016 post-war average (PWA) and 78 percent of the 2012-2016 five-year average (Figure 2). Although cereal production was below average, it was well above the 32,000 MT produced during the 2016/17 Deyr season. In Central Agropastoral livelihood zone where rainfall performance was relatively better, cowpea production is estimated at 4,140 MT, 10 percent below the 1995-2017 PWA but similar to the five-year average. Conversely, rainfall performance was very poor in the Northwest and November Gu/Karaan production is estimated at 15,590 MT, 68 percent of average, while January Deyr production in Togdheer Agropastoral is estimated at 250 MT, 25 percent of average.

    Poor households are earning less income than normal from agricultural labor, due to below-average production, which resulted in fewer days of available work and lower daily wage rates in some areas. Households also face reduced income from crop sales, as most harvested fewer than normal amounts and have less crops than normal to sell.

    Also as a result of below-average Deyr rainfall, pasture and water availability are below normal in many areas of the country. Availability is most significantly below average in many northern and central regions. Pasture is relatively better in southern areas, although Shabelle river water levels are very low and, as a result, water availability is lower than normal. Water trucking is ongoing and prices are well above average across the country. In northwestern regions, the average price of a 200-liter drum of water in January was approximately 9,250 SLS, 46 percent higher than the same time last year and 35 percent higher than the five-year average. Water prices are 11-56 percent above average in Bakool, Bay, Hiran, Lower Juba, Lower and Middle Shabelle, and Nugal, with the highest price observed in Lower Shabelle. 

    Despite overall below-average pasture availability, 2017/18 Deyr performance was significantly better than 2016/17 Deyr performance and availability of these resources, and livestock migration options internally and across borders, have improved notably relative to the same time last year. As a result, livestock body conditions have improved. Exceptions include some northern and central regions where livestock body conditions are poor due to substantial rainfall deficits and limited migration options. Of greatest concern is Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, where livestock body conditions are very poor and atypical livestock deaths have been occurring since January.   

    As a result of improved livestock body conditions in most regions, rates of livestock conception have increased relative to the same time last year and are low to medium in most of the country. Due to similar conception rates during the 2017 Gu, low to medium goat kidding took place during the Deyr, providing households with some access to milk. Overall goat milk consumption is still below average, but higher than last season and the same time last year. Low to none camel and cattle calving occured during the Deyr, due to very low conception in past seasons, and most poor households are not consuming camel milk currently. Overall, milk production is lower in northern and central regions than in southern regions.

    Due to low to medium conception and births, livestock herd sizes are slowly recovering in many areas. However, significant livestock losses occured during the first half of 2017, and livestock herd sizes remain well below average as a result. According to data collected during the 2017/2018 post-Deyr assessment, pastoralists in most livelihood zones lost between 25 and 75 percent of their herds in 2017 (Figure 3).

    The large-scale loss of livestock across the country has resulted in lower market supply, which is significantly lower in northern and central areas due to greater livestock losses and some migration to southern areas in search of pasture and water. Consequently, more livestock are centered in southern regions and put up for sale on southern markets. Due to low supply in northern and central regions, the price of a local quality goat in January was 30-60 percent higher than the same time last year and roughly 15 percent above average. In southern regions, where supply is relatively higher, livestock body conditions are better, and demand is stable, the price of a local quality goat is near average and 20-50 percent above last year. Despite increases in goat prices in many areas, poor households have few goats to sell and total income from this livelihood activity is well below average.

    Due to several consecutive seasons of below-average production, local cereal prices are above average. However, prices are below the same time last year due to better Deyr production this year compared to last year and large-scale humanitarian assistance since February/March of 2017. In Baidoa, the retail price of a kilogram (kg) of sorghum was 6,400 SOS in January, 17 percent higher than average, but 34 percent lower than last year. In Qorioley, a kg of maize was 5,925 SOS, slightly above average but 36 percent lower than January 2017.

    Local cereal prices in central and northern regions are also above average, though most households in these regions consume imported cereals and these prices are average or slightly below average due to well-supplied international markets. The exceptions are northwestern markets, where prices of imported staple foods are above average due to devaluation of the Somaliland Shilling against the U.S. Dollar.

    Household purchasing capacity, measured by goat-to-cereal and labor-to-cereal terms of trade (ToT), has increased from 2017, but is mixed compared to average. In southern regions, goat prices are above last year, but below average and cereal prices have declined from last year, but remain above average. As a result, goat-to-cereal ToT have increased from 2017 but remain lower than normal. In Bardhere, for instance, the sale of a goat in January bought 81 kg of sorghum, 47 percent above last year, but 47 percent below average. Labor-to-cereal ToT are similar: In Baidoa the daily wage rate bought 13 kg of sorghum in January, 44 percent above last year but 24 percent below average. However, in Middle and Lower Juba, Middle Shabelle, Bandadir, and Gedo, the early end of rains and successive early road use increased labor demand and wages relative to normal. In these areas, ToT are above last year and average. In Kismayo, the daily wage bought 18 kg of maize, up from 14 kg last year and the five-year average of 16 kg.

    In northern regions, livestock-to-cereal ToT are above both last year and average due to stable imported cereal prices and high livestock prices. In Erigavo, the sale of a goat bought 74 kg of rice in January, double the same time last year and 35 percent above average. However, most poor households lack saleable livestock and do not benefit from the above-average ToT.   

    Households also have lower than normal food access due to high levels of debt. In northern and central regions, debt increased 100-400 percent between December 2016 and December 2017. In drought-affected southern areas, including Bay, Bakool, Gedo, and Hiran, debt levels increased between 40-170 percent over the same time period. The increase in debt levels was driven by households purchasing food and water on credit, as well as borrowing money to fund livestock migration.

    Although food purchases through typical income sources are lower than normal, many households are purchasing food with cash/vouchers provided by humanitarian actors. According to the Somalia Food Security Cluster, an average of 2.2 million beneficiaries were reached monthly between October and December (Figure 4), with either cash/voucher or in-kind assistance equivalent to between a half and full ration. The majority received cash/voucher assistance. The reach was slightly lower in January, although still significant, with 2.1 million beneficiaries receiving assistance. Data from the post-Deyr assessment and observations from field analysts corroborate the presence of consistent, large-scale assistance in many areas of the country.

    In addition to emergency food assistance, nutrition and WASH interventions have contributed to a decline in Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) and fewer cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD). Over 50,300 AWD cases were reported during the first half of 2017, but declined significantly to 5,900 cases during the second half of the year. The number of AWD fatalities also declined from 635 deaths between January to June to 15 deaths between July and December, with no deaths reported after August. Improvements were also due to relatively better rainfall in the latter half of the year. Despite improvements in the second half of 2017, the number of AWD cases has again increased due to low water availability and 727 cases were reported in December and January in Beletweyn, Kismayo, and Mogadishu. 

    Conflict persists in many southern and central areas and continues to cause the loss of life and negatively impact the flow of traded goods, market functioning, and humanitarian access. Drought and conflict remain the primary drivers of displacement. According to UNHCR, an estimated 344,000 people were displaced between July and December, over half of whom were displaced due to drought, while 40 percent were due to conflict. Drought-related displacement declined significantly in the second half of 2017, when 190,000 people were displaced compared to 649,000 during the first half of 2017. However, only 44,000 people returned to their places of origin between July and December and, as a result, total displacement remains high: approximately 2,690,000 people are internally displaced, 1,130,000 of whom were displaced in 2017.

    According to data from the December post-Deyr assessment, food security and nutrition outcomes have improved in several areas, and fewer households are reporting moderate or severe hunger in Bay Agropastoral and Northern Inland Pastoral (Figure 5). In most livelihood zones and IDP camps, Food Consumption Score (FCS) and Household Hunger Scale (HHS) pointed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, though in a few areas FCS pointed to Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Of the 30 SMART surveys conducted between November and December, a ‘Critical’ (15-30%) prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM), as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), was reported in eight areas. This is a notable improvement from the 2016/17 Deyr, when a ‘Critical’ prevalence of GAM (WHZ) was recorded in 13 out of 27 surveys, and the 2017 Gu, when a ‘Critical’ prevalence of GAM (WHZ) was recorded in 20 out of 31 surveys. An estimated 301,000 children between six and 59 months of age are suffering from acute malnutrition, including 48,000 who are severely malnourished. The number of cases of severe acute malnutrition is 32 percent lower than last year, although the need remains high and urgent.

    Food security and nutrition improvements are the result of increased food availability from the Deyr harvest and some milk production, as well as consistent, large-scale humanitarian assistance. Since post-Deyr data collection in December, it is expected that access to milk and food stocks have seasonally declined, though not significantly enough to change food security outcomes. Furthermore, the continuation of humanitarian assistance is supporting similar outcomes as observed in December. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes exist in most southern regions, though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes exist in Bay/Bakool Low Potential, Southern Rainfed, and Hiraan Southern Agropastoral livelihood zones. More severe outcomes exist in central and northern areas, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is widespread and humanitarian assistance is preventing more extreme outcomes in wide areas of Guban, Addun, Hawd, and Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones.

    Despite improvements, concern remains high for many areas given that households have lost key livelihood assets and humanitarian assistance is a key driver of observed improvements. Displaced populations and poor households in northwest Northern Inland Pastoral, Addun Pastoral, Togdheer Agropastoral, and Bay/Bakool Agropastoral livelihood zones are of high concern, and of greatest concern is Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, where households face an extreme lack of access to income, atypical livestock deaths have been reported, and there is heavy reliance on assistance and community support.


    The February to September 2018 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on forecasts by NOAA and USGS, the April to June Gu season is forecast to be below average. Below-average rainfall is due to the expectation that the effects of La Niña will continue to drive below-average rainfall as it dissipates to ENSO neutral conditions between March and May 2018.
    • The June to August 2018 Karan rains in northwestern Somalia and July to September Xagaa rains in southern coastal regions are forecast to be average.
    • As a result of below-average Deyr production and expected below-average Gu production, domestic staple cereal supply will be lower than normal throughout 2018, but higher than last year. International cereal markets are well supplied and rice and wheat imports into Somalia are expected to be average and help address domestic staple food supply gaps.
    • Off-season cereal production, estimated at 5,200 MT, is expected in March and is likely to be below average in Lower Juba and average in Middle Juba.
    • Although domestic cereal production will be below average, total production is still expected to be high enough to keep cereal prices below 2017 levels. Based on FEWS NET’s price projections, local cereal prices throughout the projection period will remain lower than 2017, and will trend closer to average, but remain slightly above average, after July.  
    • With forecast of below-normal Gu rainfall, the area planted for Gu crops is likely to be below average. Given likely below-average river water levels, irrigated crop cultivation will also be below average. Consequently, agricultural labor demand for land preparation, planting, and weeding are likely to be below normal.
    • Although pasture is below average in many areas, availability is expected to be sufficient to maintain normal livestock body conditions, due to expected normal migration options and lower herd sizes, which will put less pressure on resources. The exceptions to this include Guban Pastoral, central Addun Pastoral, most northern pastoral areas, and agropastoral areas in Hiran and Togdheer, where livestock body conditions are expected to remain below average through April due to poor pasture and water availability, and limited migration options. Livestock body conditions are expected to be very poor in Guban Pastoral livelihood zone and further livestock deaths are likely through April. In all areas resource availability and livestock body conditions are expected to improve between May and September with Gu rainfall.
    • In all livelihood zones except Guban Pastoral, medium rates of kidding and lambing are expected in March/April. Low or no camel calving is expected in central and northern areas due to limited conception last year; however, in southern livelihood zones, medium camel and cattle calving is expected in August/September. Milk will be available at seasonally normal times and at higher levels than last year. However, total milk availability will remain below average due to lower than normal herd sizes, most significantly in northern and central regions.
    • Livestock prices are expected to follow seasonal trends, but remain above average in northern regions due to low supply. Livestock prices are expected to remain somewhat below average in southern areas due to relatively higher supply.
    • In most southern areas, purchasing power, as measured by goats-to-cereal and labor-to-cereal ToT, is expected to remain below average due to above-average cereal prices and below-average livestock prices (Figure 6), though purchasing power will be above last year. In northern areas, ToT will remain above last year and above average due to expected above-average livestock prices and stable, near-average cereal prices.
    • Milk prices will follow seasonal trends, increasing through March, decreasing between April and July following livestock births, and increasing after August. Overall, milk prices are expected to remain above average in most areas of the country.
    • According to the FSC, cash/voucher and in-kind assistance will continue in throughout the projection period, though at lower than in 2017. However, no plan detailing the level of assistance by district is available. In the absence of detail on planned, funded, and likely assistance at the district level, the scenario assumes the absence of assistance. 
    • Conflict between Al-Shabaab and Government forces is expected to persist in areas of greatest concern: Lower and Middle Juba, Lower and Middle Shabelle, Gedo, Bay, Bakool, and Hiraan. This will disrupt normal trade and movements, cause displacement, reduce household income through taxation, and result in the loss of lives. Clan conflict in Lower Shabelle is also expected to persist throughout the projection period and have similar adverse impacts. Conflict is expected to be highest during the January to March and July to September dry seasons. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes 

    Food security improved notably by early 2018, and due to current outcomes, expected access to agricultural labor, Gu harvests, and some livestock sales, the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) has declined. However, improvements have been driven to a large degree by continued, large-scale humanitarian assistance. In the absence of assistance food security would deteriorate significantly. An estimated 2,728,000 people would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through the peak of the agropastoral lean season in June, in the absence of assistance. Of these, an estimated 590,000 are in urban areas and 503,000 are internally displaced persons (IDPs). In July, food security is expected to improve with the arrival of the Gu harvest, and some livestock births that will allow for increased livestock sales and consumption of goat milk. Terms of trade will remain better than last year, and near normal in many areas, though households will still have limited income compared to average and face difficulty purchasing sufficient food to meet their basic needs. In the absence of assistance, between 2.1 and 2.2 million people will still be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse between June to September 2018.

    In southern rainfed agropastoral livelihood zones, poor households will deplete stocks earlier than normal, and will rely heavily on markets to access food. However, with lower than normal income and below average terms of trade, consumption will remain inadequate. Many poor households also have reduced coping capacity having sold some livelihood assets in 2017. Poor households in these areas, including Bay Agropastoral, are expected to face food consumption gaps in the absence of assistance and be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The exception to this is in July/August when households will harvest 1-2 months of cereal and consumption will temporarily improve. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in riverine livelihood zones where production, agricultural labor opportunities, and coping capacity are expected to be relatively better.

    In southern pastoral livelihood zones, poor households are expected to be able to meet their basic food needs and most areas will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) (Figure 7), though Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in some areas. Livestock herd sizes did not decline as significantly as in more drought-stricken northern and central areas and, as a result, most poor households will have access to milk and access sufficient livestock sales to purchase adequate amounts of cereal from markets.

    In central and northern regions, although food security has improved with milk access, the availability of milk will decline through April. Furthermore, households will have limited livestock to sell to purchase cereal. In the absence of humanitarian assistance, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected, and some areas will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Of greatest concern are Guban Pastoral, Addun Pastoral, and northwestern Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would be likely through June. Between June and September, slightly better outcomes are expected in Addun and Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones, as milk availability and the potential for some livestock sales increases after goats give birth during the Gu. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely during this period. Food insecurity is expected to remain extreme in Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, though, where atypical livestock deaths are occurring and no births are expected during the Gu. In this livelihood zone, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) remains likely through September. Also of high concern is northwestern agropastoral livelihood zone of Togdheer, where households had little to no harvest or income-earning opportunities, and these sources are expected to remain below average throughout the projection period. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected. 


    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Rainfall as a percentage of normal, October 1 to December 31, 2018, compared to 1981-2010 mean, CHIRPS

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Cereal production, in metric tons during Gu and Deyr seasons, southern Somalia, 2010-2017

    Source: FSNAU data

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Average herd sizes in tropical livestock units (TLUs) reported by households in post-Deyr 2017/18 assessment

    Source: FSNAU data

    Figure 4

    Figure 4. Estimated percentage of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) reached with food and cash assistance, November 2017 to January 2018

    Source: Food Security Cluster data; FSNAU data

    Figure 5

    Figure 5. Percentage of the population reporting moderate or severe hunger 2016/17 Deyr vs. 2017/18 Deyr

    Source: FSNAU data

    Figure 6. Observed and projected goat-to-sorghum terms of trade, Baidoa, Bay

    Figure 6

    Figure 6. Observed and projected goat-to-sorghum terms of trade, Baidoa, Bay

    Source: FSNAU data; FEWS NET projection

    Figure 7

    Figure 7. Household Economy Analysis (HEA) Results for the 2017/18 consumption year compared to 2015/16 reference year for poor households in Juba Southern Inland Pastoral

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top