Food Security Outlook

Consecutive seasons of below-average rainfall likely to lead to widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes

February 2021 to September 2021

February - May 2021

June - September 2021

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Concentration of displaced people
Remote monitoring
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • In February, the recent below-average deyr harvest, marginal seasonal improvements in livestock production, and sustained humanitarian food assistance are supporting widespread Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Although food assistance is mitigating the magnitude of the acutely food insecure population, available evidence indicates at least 1.6 million people across Somalia still have food consumption gaps or are using negative coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

  • Driven by waning La Niña conditions, a below-average gu rainfall season is forecast from April to June. A second consecutive season of below-average rainfall, coupled with the ongoing desert locust upsurge, is anticipated to lead to progressively widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September. Additionally, economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is occurring gradually and several key sources of income, including livestock exports, remain below normal levels. An estimated 2.7 million people are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4). This projection does not take planned humanitarian food assistance into account due to limited information on confirmed funding and district-level targeting.

  • In agropastoral and riverine livelihood zones, most poor households will have below-normal food stocks and reduced agricultural labor income from the below-average 2020 deyr harvest and the anticipated, below-average 2021 gu harvest. In northern and central pastoral livelihood zones, most poor households are still struggling to recover their livestock holdings, which will continue to limit their food and income from livestock and milk production. Due to the tight cereal supply, rising staple food prices are expected to simultaneously place pressure on rural and urban households’ purchasing power through at least July. Displaced and poor urban households are particularly sensitive to price shocks, with limited coping capacity. Northern Inland Pastoral and Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing livelihood zones are among the areas of high concern, where some households became destitute from the impacts of Cyclone Gati.


Current Situation

Rainfall performance: In February, most of Somalia is currently experiencing drier and hotter than normal conditions during the January to March jilaal season. The dry season follows a generally below-average deyr rainfall season in late 2020. As previously reported in FEWS NET’s December 2020 Food Security Outlook Update, cumulative rainfall during the October to December 2020 deyr was 50-80 percent of the historical average in the North and most of the South, with the deepest deficits of 25-50 percent of average located in parts of Toghdeer, Gedo, and Lower Juba regions. Rainfall generally ceased by early to mid-November, except in northern coastal areas where Cyclone Gati made landfall in late November and in Guban Pastoral livelihood zone where the xays showers performed well in December/January. By late December, the cumulative precipitation deficit was indicative of meteorological drought in large parts of the North, according to the Standardized Precipitation Index (Figure 1). In the South, where rainfall deficits have strengthened since November, drought conditions emerged by February.

While much of the country is facing atypically dry conditions, riverine areas and some northern coastal areas are still recovering from the impacts of extensive floods and Cyclone Gati. In the Shabelle and Juba riverine areas in the South, the deyr brought a third consecutive season of heavy rain locally and in the upper river catchments in the Ethiopian highlands that expanded the existing flood extent and caused extensive damage to crops and feeder roads. In the Northeast, especially in Bari region, Cyclone Gati brought flash floods that caused livestock losses, damaged fishing equipment, and damaged road and water infrastructure. The rapid assessment conducted by the Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Agency (HADMA) and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other humanitarian agencies concluded that the storm affected around 183,000 people, killed 9 people and over 63 000 livestock, damaged or contaminated water sources, and damaged essential infrastructure and fishing equipment. In December, humanitarian agencies reported reaching over 78,000 affected people with non-food assistance. Currently, fishing activities have resumed, and roads have re-opened. However, education and health services remain suspended since health clinics and schools still need repairs.

Desert locust upsurge: The extent of the desert locust infestation was more widespread in the 2020 deyr than in the 2019 deyr, leading to more significant crop losses in the Northwest and the South and contributing to faster depletion of pasture and browse in central and northern regions. Crop damage was reported in marginal agropastoral livelihood zones and riverine areas in Hiiraan and Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, as well as agropastoral areas in central Somalia. Currently, desert locusts are mainly concentrated in the North and breeding is underway, supported by the recent rains received from Cyclone Gati and the xays. However, immature groups and swarms have also been reported in pastoral areas of Mudug and Galguduud, Shabelle riverine areas, and as far south as Bay, Gedo, and the Jubas as the southward winds encourage migration toward Kenya. Government-led control operations have scaled up in an effort to mitigate the situation, with the number of treated hectares (ha) rising three-fold since October to nearly 54,000 ha in January.

Agricultural production: Given the above weather and desert locust shocks, combined with localized disruptions to cultivation due to conflict and insecurity, the main season (January 2021) and off-season (March 2021) deyr cereal harvest in south-central Somalia is below average. According to FSNAU estimates, total maize and sorghum production is estimated at 78,600 metric tons (MT) – including 4,100 MT of off-season crops that are expected in March – which is 15 percent below the 2010-2019 average and 25 percent below 2019/20 deyr production (Figure 2). Given the overall decline in cereal production since 2015 due to recurrent drought and floods, production is similar to (3 percent below) the 2015-2019 five-year average.

There are significant regional and livelihood-zone level differences in cereal production. Crop losses were highest in Cowpea Belt Agropastoral livelihood zone, where desert locust and other pests caused crop failure, and in riverine areas of Gedo, Hiiraan, Middle and Lower Juba, and Middle Shabelle, where damage caused by floods and desert locust resulted in regional production shortfalls for the main season that were 26 to 70 percent below the respective regional 10-year averages (2010-2019). Several of these same riverine areas are estimated to have significantly below-average off-season harvests as well. In contrast, crop production performed favorably in Bay and Bakool regions, due to locally timely and above-average rainfall in October. In these two regions, local cereal production was 26 and 31 percent above the respective regional five-year averages, with the bulk of the harvest produced in Sorghum High Potential Agropastoral livelihood zone. Meanwhile, farmers in Lower Shabelle harvested 26,500 MT of cereals, which is near the five-year average but 17 percent below the long-term average. Typically, Bay, and Lower Shabelle regions contribute the highest proportion of annual deyr cereal crops.

Cash crop production is estimated at 19,000 MT of sesame, 7,250 MT of cowpeas, and 13,700 MT of other cash crops (including rice, groundnuts, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and watermelon). In response to high demand in urban areas, farmers increased sesame production by 43 percent above the five-year average. However, cowpea production fell by 26 percent and other cash crops declined by 8 percent due to the impacts of below-average rainfall and desert locust. 

In the Northwest, FSNAU and the Somaliland Ministry of Agriculture and Development estimate total gu/karan cereal production, which was harvested in November/December, was 17,100 MT, or 58 percent below the 2010-2019 average. The final estimate confirms recent projections that the harvest performed more poorly than originally anticipated. Crop losses occurred due to erratic karan rainfall from July through September and widespread damage to maize and sorghum from the local desert locust and stalk borer infestations.

Water and vegetation availability: Water trucking is ongoing in parts of Northern Inland Pastoral, Addun Pastoral, and northeastern and central Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing livelihood zones, where most surface water catchments did not replenish or were only partially refilled during the deyr. Water shortages had led to notable price increases in some areas, given that reliance on purchased water and water trucking began earlier than normal. In January, the price of a drum of water in Bossasso and Garowe was 18 percent and 60 percent above January 2020, respectively (Figure 4). In Jilib of Lower Juba in the South, where floods and erratic rainfall also affected water availability, the price of water rose by 17 percent compared to January 2020.

Pasture and browse conditions showed mixed patterns across the country, according to remote-sensing imagery and field reports (Figure 3). At the start of the rainfall season in October, most northern and central pastoral areas were benefitting from normal to above-normal pasture availability following locally above-average 2020 gu rainfall. However, as rainfall deficits and desert locust damage accumulated across the country over the course of the 2020 deyr season, vegetation deficits emerged. Currently, high temperatures during the January-March jilaal are driving atypical pasture and browse depletion, and availability now ranges from normal to below normal. The deepest deficits are observed in the South when comparing current conditions to the long-term average for each area, but total vegetation availability is better in the South compared to the North. Carryover dry pasture from the 2020 gu and better carrying capacity in grazing areas with limited livestock holdings in north-central Somalia, along with normal, opportunistic livestock migration, are also mitigating the situation. In coastal areas and adjacent inland areas in the North, Cyclone Gati, average July-September karan rains (Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed regions), and moderate to above-average December-January xays rains (Awdal) have maintained favorable rangeland conditions.

Livestock production:  Despite below-average deyr rainfall, livestock body conditions remained normal to above normal (PET score 3-4). However, livestock body conditions in rain deficit areas have already started deteriorating due to harsh effect of the jilaal. Livestock births during the 2020 deyr were medium for small ruminants and low to medium for large ruminants. Livestock conception during the 2020 deyr was medium among small ruminants, while conception among large ruminants was medium to low since most of them already conceived in the 2020 gu or gave birth in the 2020 deyr. As a result of medium sheep and goat births, livestock holding among poor pastoral households across the country continued to increase during the 2020 deyr season. However, herd sizes of poor households in northern and central regions remain mostly below baseline levels, while herd sizes in southern areas are at or above baseline levels.

Milk availability was average in southern Somalia, except in Gedo, where milk availability is low due to less favorable pasture and browse conditions. Although milk production has improved in northern and central regions, availability remained low due to fewer than typical milking/lactating animals, slow herd recovery from past drought losses, and livestock migration to distant grazing areas searching for water and pasture.

Macroeconomic conditions:  In late 2020, available information from the World Bank indicated a rebound in economic activity in Somalia following the lifting of containment measures domestically. Economic growth is also bolstered by an increase in remittances inflows to middle and better-off households and businesses, while lower fuel prices are reducing household and business expenditures, given Somalia has some of the highest prices of electricity in the world. However, livestock exports declined sharply between August and December 2020 compared to the 2010-2019 average, with negative effects for middle and better-off households who raise export quality livestock as well as for poor households who are involved in the livestock export value chain. Additionally, poor households have been less likely to see recovery in their remittance inflows. Based on household survey responses in late 2020, up to 22 percent of urban households, 12 percent of rural households, and 6 percent of IDP households received remittances, but the values received remain well below normal. In Puntland, the average exchange rate for the SOS against the USD has continued to depreciate. Based on the average exchange rate recorded in Garowe, Bossasso, and Ceerigabo markets, the Puntland shilling has depreciated 45 percent since August 2015 and nearly 15 percent since January 2020. The decline is related to problems with counterfeit currency, expansion of the money supply by Puntland government authorities, and rejection of the SOS in tax collection. Due to increased preference for the USD by traders, to the detriment of poor households, local authorities issued a decree to enforce the use of the SOS in early 2020.

Livestock prices: Prices increased or declined slightly in January 2021 across the country due to mixed trends in livestock body condition and demand during the jilaal dry season. However, local goat prices in January generally ranged from near to 20 percent above the January 2020 average and 15-50 percent above the five-year average across the country, except in Middle and Lower Juba where the price is up to 5 percent below last year. Livestock still command a relatively higher price in the North, where supply is still below normal, compared to the South, where supply is relatively near normal. Despite high goat prices, poor households – especially in north-central Somalia – have few goats to sell and total income is below average.

Staple food prices: Across most markets in the South, local cereal prices remained stable or rose slightly in January and range from near to above average, influenced by the recent below-average production and market accessibility as fresh supplies from the deyr harvest and carryover stocks from previous seasons continue to replenish market supplies. For example, the price of a kg of red sorghum in Baidoa in Bay was similar to the recent five-year average but 10 percent higher than January 2020. In Qoriyoley in Lower Shabelle, the price of a kg of white maize rose by 23 percent since December and is now 15 and 8 percent higher than January 2020 and the five-year average, respectively. Additionally, the intensification of an existing trade embargo imposed by Al Shabaab since November 2020 has led to a sharp increase in imported commodities like rice, wheat, and sugar in the Sorghum Belt regions, including Bay, Bakool and Hiran regions. In these areas, most of the above commodities have significantly (31-45 percent) increased compared to last year and the recent five-year averages.

In central and northwestern markets, where households primarily prefer sorghum or rice, staple cereal prices generally remained stable or showed marginal fluctuations in January relative to December, January 2020, and the five-year average Some supplies from karan production as well as cross border imports from Ethiopia have contributed to local price stability. However, due to the depreciation of the Puntland Somali Shilling in markets of the Northeast, sorghum and maize prices were 11-28 percent higher than last year and the five-year average. This is also affecting the price of imported red rice, which has risen by 25-45 percent in local markets such as Garowe, Bossasso, and Ceerigavo (Figure 5).

Terms of trade: Household purchasing capacity, as measured by terms of trade, is below average in most regions of the country. The labor-to-cereals terms of trade declined from October to December, largely due to decreased demand for agricultural labor during the recent below-average deyr agricultural season as well as decreased labor demand during the crop marketing season for processing, transportation, and other market-related activities. In addition, reduced economic activity in major towns – especially in the construction sector from the election-related political stalemate – has also contributed to reduced wage rates. In Baidoa, for instance, a day of casual labor in January 2021 could buy 15 kg of red sorghum, which 12 percent below last year and 6 percent below the five-year average (Figure 6). In Kismayo in Lower Juba, the daily labor wage could buy 14 kg of white maize in January, which is 17 percent higher than last year but 12 percent below the recent five-year average. Similar trends are observed in Middle and Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, and Gedo regions.  

In the South, declining goat prices and rising cereal prices have led to a decline in the goat-to-cereals terms of trade, which ranged from 5 to 15 percent below the January 2020 and five-year averages across key reference markets in January. In Banadir region, for instance, the sale of a goat in January bought 158 kg of maize, which is 24 and 11 percent below last year and the five-year average. In the North, the goat-to-cereals terms of trade have declined in some areas but generally remain slightly above the five-year average due to stable to rising imported cereal prices and high livestock prices. In Ceerigabo, the sale of a goat bought 74 kg of rice in January, which is nine percent below last year but 17 percent above average (Figure 6).

Conflict and displacement: According to UNHCR and the Protection and Return Monitoring Network (PRMN), nearly 661,000 persons were displaced between July and Dec 2020. About 69 percent (456,090) of the displaced cited floods as the cause of displacement, while 14 percent each cited conflict/insecurity and lack of livelihoods as the cause of displacement. Most displacements occurred in Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, and Banadir regions from July to September as well as in November, mainly driven by floods. Displacement related to flooding, conflict, and insecurity have contributed to lower crop production in Hiiraan and Middle and Lower Shabelle, further exacerbating food insecurity across many parts of Somalia.

Humanitarian food assistance: According to humanitarian food assistance distribution reports provided by the Somalia Food Security Cluster, an average of 1.8 million beneficiaries (15 percent of the national population) received at least a 25 percent ration monthly from November to January. On a monthly basis, the reach of food assistance rose from 1.7 million in November to over 2.0 million in January. The majority received cash/voucher assistance. Consistent with previous periods of analysis, humanitarian access remains highest in the North, urban centers, and IDP settlements. Humanitarian access constraints persist in many rural areas of the South due to conflict and insecurity, and food assistance delivery is especially limited in Middle Juba, Lower Juba, and Lower Shabelle. Data from the post-Deyr assessment and observations from field analysts validate the presence of large-scale assistance in many areas.

Current food security outcomes

Based on outcome indicator data collected by FSNAU during the post-deyr household survey in November and December, an estimated 1.6 million people – approximately 13 percent of the national population[1] – are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in February. This estimate reflects the population that is experiencing food consumption gaps or engaging in unsustainable livelihoods coping strategies even after food assistance reached an average of 1.8 million people from October to December 2020 and over 2 million people in January. The estimate of the currently food insecure population stands in contrast to the October to December 2020 projection, because the projection for late 2020 was determined at a time when information on planned and funded humanitarian food assistance was unavailable. Further, during the October to December 2020 period, the secondary agricultural lean season was ongoing, many riverine areas were still flooded, and many urban areas were still affected by reduced economic activity linked to COVID-19 restrictions. Compared to previous estimates of the food insecure population with food assistance delivery taken into account, the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) has notably declined, with a 50 percent decline observed from September 2020 to January 2021 (Figure 7). However, the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) has risen significantly, with a 48 percent increase recorded from September 2020 to January 2021. In addition to the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4), 2.93 million people are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in need of livelihoods support.

The prevalence of acute malnutrition has slightly improved but is similar to the 2020 gu and 2019 deyr. According to 34 SMART surveys conducted in November and December 2020 by FSNAU and partners, the median prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) remains Serious (10-14.9 percent GAM WHZ) at 11.5 percent, which is comparable to levels observed in the 2020 gu (11.8 percent) and the 2019 deyr (13.1 percent). Although food insecurity is a contributing factor, the sustained, high GAM prevalence is also attributed to relatively high morbidity (median prevalence of 22.7 percent), low immunization and vitamin-A supplementation, poor access to sanitation health services, and poor care practices. At the livelihood zone, IDP settlement, and urban level, 4 out of the 34 assessed population groups show Critical (15-29.9 percent GAM WHZ) levels, with the highest levels observed among IDPs in Mogadishu (16.7 percent), Bossasso (15.8 percent), and Garowe (15.8 percent) and the rural riverine population in the Shabelles (15.8 percent).

Pastoral livelihood zones: In northern pastoral areas, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are widespread, while in central pastoral areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present. At the household level, however, household survey data indicates that 5-15 percent of households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Overall, medium livestock births during the deyr have led to a seasonal increase in food and income derived from livestock production. However, food assistance has played a critical role in reducing households’ food consumption gaps, given that the average poor households’ livestock holdings are still at unsustainable levels due to recurrent drought. At the livelihood zone level, the average debt held by poor households ranges from 5 to 23 percent above the average debt held in December 2019, and many households would face challenges in paying down their debt and purchasing food and non-food items in the absence of food aid. In Guban Pastoral, Northern Inland Pastoral, and East Golis Pastoral livelihood zones, where imported rice and water prices have risen and household income from other traditionally important sources has declined – including livestock exports, remittances, fishing, and frankincense exports – food assistance has likely prevented Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. However, over 20 percent of the population in Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing livelihood zone in northeastern and central Somalia is in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, and food assistance has not been large-scale enough to prevent food consumption gaps. In this area, some households have few to zero livestock and are destitute after losing their herds to past droughts and Cyclone Gati.

In southern pastoral areas, the severity of food insecurity remains relatively low. Most pastoralists have average to above-average livestock holdings, and total rainfall in the South was still sufficient to support goat and cattle milk production. Additionally, staple food prices are more affordable in these areas, given their proximity to crop-producing zones. Most areas are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). However, Southern Inland Pastoral of Gedo and Hawd Pastoral of Hiiraan are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with some households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Livestock health and saleability in these areas have declined due to the impacts of locally poor rainfall performance and damage from desert locust on pasture and browse availability.

Agropastoral and riverine livelihood zones: Driven by the availability of the below-average deyr harvests and a seasonal increase in livestock holdings and milk availability, most agropastoral and riverine livelihood zones are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2). As floodwaters receded in riverine areas, most households harvested some late, off-season gu crops by November, earned labor income from recessional cultivation, and are harvesting either main or off-season deyr crops. In general, humanitarian access in rural areas of the South is low, but food assistance has reached less than 25 percent of the population in several districts, such as Bulo Burto of Hiiraan and Marka of Lower Shabelle, among others. However, localized riverine areas in Middle Shabelle and Lower Juba are still in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In these areas, households lost a greater share of their crops to floods or desert locusts and realized a more extensive loss of agricultural labor income during the main deyr season, which was the third consecutive season of flooding within the past two years. In riverine areas of Beledweyn, significant humanitarian food assistance is supporting Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes and likely preventing deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Despite current Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, however, Bay Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral, Cowpea Agropastoral, and riverine are areas of concern. Conflict and insecurity periodically impede livelihood activities, crop losses were significant, and food access is below optimal levels among poor, labor-dependent households, who continue to depend on credit to purchase food and essential non-food items. Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zone in the Northwest is also an area of concern, where sustained Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are driven by low livestock holdings, inadequate income from grass fodder sales, and limited milk availability. Debt levels have risen by 50 percent to USD 200 since the 2020 gu.

Internally displaced person (IDP) settlements: Over 20 percent of the total IDP population (2.65 milllion) is in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4), based on household survey data collected in 15 settlements. Many IDP settlements (7 out of 15) are classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), though food security outcome indicator data suggests humanitarian food assistance is supporting Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in Beledweyne, Dhusamareeb, Dolow, Kismayo, Galkayo, and Hargeisa. Several factors contribute to acute food insecurity among IDPs, including low ownership of productive assets. In November, 88-95 percent of IDP households reported they did not have access to farming inputs or tools for casual labor such as donkey carts or wheelbarrows, and most no longer have access to land or livestock. Further, IDPs reported spending 69-85 percent of their total expenditures on food. Given unstable or limited income sources and a higher reliance on market purchases to access food, they are more vulnerable to price shocks. Further, many IDPs have weak social and family/clan connections that would typically offer vital forms of assistance in times of need.

Urban areas: Nearly 10 percent of the total urban population (5.2 million) is estimated to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4), based on household survey data collected in 11 urban centers. The share of the population that is still in need of food assistance at the urban area level is highest in Kismayo, Bossasso, Burao, Dolow, Hargeisa, Galkacyo, and Beledweyn. Although nearly all households reported an acceptable food consumption score, 16 percent of the assessed urban population reported a moderate household hunger score. Furthermore, 41 percent of the assessed urban population engaged in food consumption-based coping strategies, such as limiting portion size, with a frequency indicative of stressed, while 14 percent were engaged in crisis livelihood coping strategies. 


The most likely scenario for February to September 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

  • Although the spread of COVID-19 remains a health concern, movement restrictions are expected to remain minimal throughout the scenario period to facilitate economic activity.
  • According to the World Bank and IMF forecasts, economic growth is expected to grow by 2.9 percent in 2021. The projection is underpinned by the assumptions that remittances inflows will remain stable, livestock exports will be higher than 2020 – especially during Ramadan (April-May 2021) and Hajj (July 2021) – and that economic activity and private consumption will benefit from the Baxnaano social safety net program, fiscal reforms, and low fuel prices.
  • Based on the preceding, below-average rainfall season in late 2020 and current above-average temperatures, the remainder of the January to March jilaal dry season will continue to be drier and hotter than normal, especially in most of northern Somalia and Gedo. Further depletion of rangeland and water resources is expected in the near term.  
  • Based on the likelihood of waning La Niña conditions through the March-May period and its anticipated resurgence by September, as well as FEWS NET’s analysis of the NOAA/NMME, ECMWF C3S, and WMO ensemble model forecasts, cumulative rainfall during the March to June 2021 gu season is most likely to be moderately below average. Spatial distribution of rainfall between regions may vary, with localized areas receiving more favorable rains. There is an increased likelihood of rainfall deficits in May, which may signal an earlier-than-normal end of the rainfall season.
  • Based on available ensemble forecast models, cumulative karan rainfall in the Northwest from July to September 2021 will likely be above average. Meanwhile, the xagaa coastal showers in Lower and Middle Shabelle and Lower and Middle Juba from June to August are likely to be average. Uncertainty exists given the long-term nature of this forecast.
  • Despite the early end of the 2020 deyr rainfall season, which typically causes river levels to recede or partially dry river levels to recede or partially dry, the Shabelle and Juba rivers are expected to remain susceptible to flood events during the 2021 gu due to insufficient repairs of open river breakages and weak embankments. As a result, the forecast of below-average to average rainfall in the river catchments in the Ethiopian highlands and south-central Somalia will most likely lead to episodic, significant flooding in the Juba and Shabelle regions.
  • Desert locust will continue to cause crop and pasture losses across the country, especially in Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle, central, and northwestern regions. Breeding in the northwestern coast and the Northeast will result in the emergence of new swarms throughout the scenario period. The northward shift of the seasonal monsoon winds in April/May will also promote swarm movement from Kenya and Ethiopia back into Somalia, coinciding with gu crop cultivation. However, the coastal Somali jet stream may mitigate the spread of locusts in Lower Shabelle, Juba, and Bay regions.
  • Based on the below-average 2021 gu rainfall forecast, anticipated episodic floods, and anticipated desert locust and pest damage, total maize and sorghum production and cash crop production (cowpea, sesame, and vegetables) in south-central Somalia are expected to be below the five-year average. Regional or livelihood zone-level differences are likely based on localized rainfall performance, cultivation of long-cycle, drought-tolerant sorghum, and levels of pest infestation. In agropastoral areas of the Northwest, short-cycle maize production during the gu is also expected to be below average; on the other hand, above-average karan rainfall may support long-cycle production, but this harvest does not occur until November. Agricultural labor demand and wages are expected to be below normal due to poor rainfall performance.
  • Livestock body conditions are expected to vary regionally, driven by local rainfall and vegetation conditions. During the jilaal dry season, adequate dry pasture and browse availability in southern-central areas and northern coastal areas will most likely sustain normal livestock body conditions. However, livestock in rainfall-deficit areas with below-normal pasture and water availability, especially in the North and Gedo, are likely to exhibit deterioration. During the gu rainfall season, below-average rainfall is expected to partially regenerate water and pasture, but localized areas may see significant deficits. Opportunistic livestock migration is likely, but not at a large scale. 
  • Based on reported camel conceptions in the 2020 gu, recent rainfall performance, and livestock body conditions, medium to low camel calving and medium cattle, goat, and sheep births are expected during the April to June gu season in the South. In north-central regions, low camel calving and medium goat/sheep births are likely.
  • Based on anticipated livestock births and rangeland resource availability, milk availability will remain below normal in north-central regions and seasonally low in the South through the remainder of the jilaal dry season. Milk availability rises following births in the gu, peaking in May-July, and falls as the hagaa dry season progresses. Based on historical trends, milk prices will modestly increase during the January to March Jilaal dry season due to reduced availability, increase from April through June, and seasonally decrease from August through September.
  • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections for Qoryoley, Baidoa, and Hargeysa reference markets, the price of a kilogram of sorghum or maize is expected to range from near average to 18 percent above the respective five-year averages through September 2021. Although the market cereal supply is expected to tighten, price hikes will most likely be mitigated by the availability of stocks from the above-average gu 2020 harvest, below-average deyr 2020/21 harvest, and sorghum and maize imports from Ethiopia. Prices are expected to reach their peak in June, prior to the gu harvest in July.
  • Imported food prices are expected to remain near average in most markets with a stable to declining trend amid adequate global supply. However, imported food prices are expected to be above average in the Northeast due to depreciation of the SOS, which is linked to the printing of new money and reduced US dollar inflows from livestock exports. Low global oil demand will most likely place downward pressure on oil prices.
  • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections for Ceerigabo, Galkcayo, and Burao reference markets, the price of a local quality goat is expected to range from 5 to 16 percent above the respective five-year averages through September 2021. Livestock prices will seasonally decline during the jilaal dry season as livestock body conditions and demand decline, but will rise from April through August as livestock body conditions improve and livestock export demand reaches its annual peak during Ramadan (April-May 2021) and Hajj (August 2021).
  • Based on the above projections for cereals and livestock prices, household purchasing power as measured by the goats-to-cereals terms of trade is expected to rise in most key markets, ranging from near to above average (Figure 8). However, the labor-to-cereal terms of trade are expected to range from average to below-average, peaking in July-September.
  • An increase in conflict and insecurity related to parliamentary and presidential elections is expected in south-central Somalia in the near term, with attacks primarily targeting the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) personnel and AMISOM troops, especially in Banadir, Gedo, Juba, and Shabelle regions. The uptick in conflict is expected to continue to cause further loss of life and productive assets, restrict humanitarian access in most of the South, and lead to new displacement. Additionally, conflict events and the associated increase in extortion payments at illegal roadblocks are anticipated to continue to periodically disrupt population movement – including labor and livestock migration – and trade.
  • Unresolved clan conflicts over land ownership, natural resource management, and other issues in Lower Shabelle, Hiiraan, and Galgaduud are expected to continue at similar levels, which will periodically disrupt trade and normal movement of livestock, people, and goods as well as crop cultivation and agriculture labor opportunities.  
  • According to the Somalia Food Security Cluster, humanitarian food assistance plans aim to reach at least 2.1 million people per month with cash transfer or in-kind food assistance equivalent to at least a 25 percent ration. However, information on confirmed funding is not available and district-level targeting has not been confirmed. As a result, this scenario does not consider the impact of food assistance.
  • Due to heightened insecurity, humanitarian access is expected to decline in rural areas of the South controlled by armed insurgents even further compared to recent years. However, humanitarian access is expected to remain consistent in southern urban areas and IDP settlements that are currently controlled by the FGS supported by AMISOM, including regional and district capitals in Lower Juba, Gedo, El Barde district in Bakool, and Beletweyne and Buloburte districts in Hiiraan. Seasonal access constraints are also likely as the roads are impassible during the gu rains.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to become increasingly widespread through September. Based on projections prepared by FSNAU, FEWS NET, and other partners at the January 2021 IPC, up to 2.7 million people are expected to have slight to large food consumption gaps or will be engaged in unsustainable coping strategies through at least June. Although June typically marks the end of the agropastoral and riverine lean season, the forecast of a below-average gu rainfall season is expected to result in below-average gu crop production and will place increased pressure on pastoral livelihoods during the secondary pastoral lean season, which occurs from July to September. Therefore, the magnitude and severity of food insecurity is expected to remain elevated during the June to September projection period.

The prevalence of acute malnutrition is also likely to rise, driven by reduced food and milk intake and seasonal and long-term factors. Based on nutrition experts’ analysis of current GAM prevalence and historical trends, GAM is expected to increase from Serious (10-14.9 percent GAM WHZ) to Critical (15-29.9 percent GAM WHZ) in rural livelihood zones in Bay and Hiiraan and central Hawd Pastoral livelihood zone. Meanwhile, deterioration to Serious levels is anticipated in Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing, Guban Pastoral, and northern agropastoral areas. Deterioration within Alert (5-9.9 percent GAM WHZ) and Serious levels are expected elsewhere. An estimated 838,900 children under the age of five are expected to be malnourished during the course of 2021, including 143,200 who are likely to be severely malnourished.

In agropastoral livelihood zones, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Bay-Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral, central Cowpea Belt Agropastoral, Togdheer Agropastoral, Sorghum High Potential Agropastoral, and parts of Southern Agropastoral livelihood zones. Further, some households are likely to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). During the February to May period, poor households will exhaust their own-produced food stocks earlier than normal and will shift to purchasing their food. However, based on the likelihood of low agricultural labor demand linked to below-average gu rainfall and desert locust, household income is expected to be inadequate for many poor households to afford their minimum food needs, particularly given the likelihood of rising staple food prices. At the start of the June to September period, a seasonal peak in livestock and milk production from May to July and the availability of the gu harvest in July will likely temporarily alleviate food insecurity. However, given that poor households will quickly deplete their food stocks from the below-average gu harvest and will have reduced coping capacity after three consecutive below-average crop production seasons, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to rapidly re-emerge and become more widespread by August. Meanwhile, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are in areas where losses from desert locusts are less likely, some cultivation occurs during the hagaa and karan, or livelihoods are more diversified. For example, in Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone, labor income during the karan, bush product sales, and higher livestock holdings will likely mitigate worse outcomes.

In riverine livelihood zones, food security outcomes are expected to vary based on the likelihood of crop losses caused by a fourth consecutive season of flooding, desert locust, and poor access to irrigation. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Riverine Pump Irrigation livelihood zone and parts of Riverine Gravity Irrigation livelihood zone with some households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). From February to May, poor households are expected to quickly consume their own-produced food stocks from the below-average deyr harvest before switching to purchasing their food from the market. Income from recessional cultivation labor during the gu is likely to be low due to episodic flooding and locust damage, as well as limited access to pump irrigation in Gedo and Hiiraan. Both the main gu harvest in July and the off-season harvest in September are expected to be inadequate. However, a lower risk of flooding is expected to permit Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in downstream areas in Lower Shabelle and parts of Middle Juba, where own-produced stocks and labor income from recessional cultivation will most likely support consistent food availability and access through September.

In pastoral livelihood zones, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are projected to become increasingly widespread without sustained humanitarian food assistance. The severity of food consumption gaps will be highest in Guban Pastoral, northwestern East Golis Pastoral, Northern Inland Pastoral, northeastern and central Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing, and Addun Pastoral livelihood zones at the peak of the primary pastoral lean season in March/April. At this time, pasture and water will become increasingly limited and households will face difficulty choosing between expenditures on water, food, migration, and livestock inputs. Although the goat-to-cereals terms of trade are expected to rise in most markets due to the tight supply of saleable animals, poor households’ low livestock holdings and reduced ability to maintain their body conditions and value is expected to suppress their income from livestock sales. In the Northeast, poor households will face even lower food access since the effect of local SOS depreciation on imported rice prices will place downward pressure on the local goat-to-cereals terms of trade.

From May to July, some seasonal improvement in livestock production typically occurs, corresponding to the regeneration of pasture and water during the gu, livestock births, and peak livestock export demand during the Ramadan (May 2021) and Hajj (August 2021) season. However, low livestock holdings, below-average gu rainfall, and loss of pasture from desert locust will limit seasonal gains in household income and their ability to finance food purchases. Further, livestock export demand is not expected to fully recover, which will affect income from related activities in the value chain. As a result of eroded coping capacity over two consecutive below-average rainfall seasons, additional pastoral areas in northern and central Somalia are expected to deteriorate from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by the start of the secondary pastoral lean season in August/September. In the South, where livestock holdings and purchasing power are higher, some areas are expected to deteriorate from Minimal (IPC Phase 1) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Northern Inland Pastoral and northern and central Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing livelihood zones are of high concern, where recurrent drought and Cyclone Gati have caused significant livestock losses and destitution for some households, who are likely to remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

IDP settlements: Without sustained humanitarian food assistance, a significant proportion of the displaced population will lose a key mitigating factor that protects them from having food consumption gaps. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected across the IDP settlements. Given limited productive assets and low coping capacity, poor households will lack adequate income to purchase sufficient food, especially in light of the anticipated increase in local food prices between now and the gu harvest. Further, ongoing economic recovery from the pandemic means competition for labor opportunities is higher than normal, which adversely affects IDPs. IDPs are also vulnerable to forced evictions, new displacement, and disease outbreaks in congested informal settlements, which weakens their coping capacity.

Urban areas: With economic activity recovering, many urban areas are projected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, households in urban centers in Bari, Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba, Mudug, Sanaag, Sool, and Togdheer regions and Beletweyn and Dhusamareeb districts will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). These areas have more limited income-generating opportunities and host high number of IDPs, which creates high competition for labor and other sources of income. Urban households will also be sensitive to the expected increase in local cereal prices before the gu harvest in July. Finally, conflict and insecurity will remain a primary factor affecting food access in urban areas of south-central Somalia, where disruptions to trade and livelihood activities place upward pressure on food prices and interfere with access to income.

For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report. 

[1] Base population is from the FGS and UNFPA Population Estimate Survey of Somalia conducted in 2014.




Impact on food security outcomes


Significantly below average (April-June) gu rainfall

Limited agriculture labor opportunity and crop failure would be likely in most agropastoral livelihood zones, while overall national production could range up to 30-50 percent of long-term average. Atypical livestock abortions and deaths, significant declines in livestock production and reproduction, and loss of income from livestock and milk sales would also be expected. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would be likely in some north/central pastoral areas, Sorghum High Potential Agropastoral, Bay Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral, and Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zones. Crisis outcomes (IPC Phase 3) would be likely in all other agropastoral livelihood zones. An increase in the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) population would be likely in southern pastoral livelihood zones. However, riverine areas would likely sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, since a lower likelihood of episodic flooding would support late-planted deyr crops and gu cultivation.

Average (April-June) gu rainfall

Recovery to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) would be anticipated in north-central pastoral areas by the peak of the gu in May, driven by replenishment of rangeland and water resources that would enhance livestock body conditions and value, support improved milk availability, decrease water and atypical migration costs, and increase access to cash and in-kind gifts from better-off households. An average gu harvest would drive improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in agropastoral areas as well. In riverine areas, however, a fourth consecutive season of floods would damage late-planted deyr off-season crops and suspend gu cultivation. The loss of food and income from agriculture and new displacement would lead to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

Sustained humanitarian food assistance

If humanitarian food assistance is fully funded at planned levels, reaching 2.1 million people per month, then north/central pastoral livelihood zones (including Addun Pastoral, Coastal Deeh Pastoral, East Golis Pastoral, Guban Pastoral, Hawd Pastoral, and Northern Inland Pastoral) would likely improve to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). Similarly, Togdheer Agropastoral would likely improve to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).

About Scenario Development

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.


The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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