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Food insecurity worsens amid a harsh jilaal dry season and a likely below-average gu season

  • Key Message Update
  • Somalia
  • March 2021
Food insecurity worsens amid a harsh jilaal dry season and a likely below-average gu season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread at the peak of the jilaal dry season (January-March) in Somalia. Some households are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in northern and central pastoral areas and Bay Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral, Cowpea Belt, and Southern Rainfed Agropastoral livelihood zones. The light to moderate todob/jarar rains, which typically occur across most of Somalia in March, failed. Consequently, above-average temperatures, below-average 2020 deyr rainfall, and Desert Locust damage to pasture continue to drive harsher and drier-than-normal conditions. Further, there is an increased likelihood of delayed and suppressed gu rainfall, which typically occurs from April to June. Despite the worsening situation, the number of people that received humanitarian food assistance declined from 2.05 million in January to 1.4 million in February, reaching only 66 percent of the estimated population in need.

    • Water is increasingly scarce, especially in pastoral areas in Gedo region and northern and central Somalia. Households are relying on water trucking as their primary water source, even in the Juba regions, where water trucking is usually unnecessary. In the North, for example, the cost of water is the highest recorded since April 2019. According to price data collected in rural reference markets in Sool, Sanaag, Bari, and Nugaal in February, the average price of a 20-liter jerrican (SOS 6,375) doubled compared to one year ago and was 23 percent above the five-year average. Most households are obtaining water through loans, adding to already high debt levels.

    • Low pasture availability and water scarcity have reduced livestock value and productivity, which is exacerbating food insecurity among poor pastoral households with an inadequate number of saleable animals. Although low levels of seasonal kidding and lambing are underway, livestock body conditions are relatively poor across species and milk production has atypically declined. There are reports of some goat and sheep abortions. While the observed livestock losses are consistent with FEWS NET’s projections so far, the situation requires close monitoring. A significant delay or very poor start of the gu rains could cause higher livestock losses, drastically reducing household food access and reversing marginal gains in livestock herd recovery since the 2016/2017 drought.

    • In southern agropastoral areas, poor households have limited cereal stocks from the below-average 2020 deyr season and face high local cereal prices and below-normal agricultural labor demand. In most southern riverine areas, the Juba and Shabelle rivers' receding water levels have caused high water salinity and suspended irrigation activities and cash crop farming. However, some farmers in the Jubas and Middle Shabelle – where extensive river flooding occurred – are harvesting off-season deyr crops to sell for income. In northwestern agropastoral areas, poor and middle households have already depleted their cereal stocks and are entirely dependent on market purchases to access food. Close monitoring of gu rainfall onset and performance is required, as the severity of rainfall deficits will determine agricultural production prospects and labor demand.

    • The population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected to peak in mid-2021, given the forecast of a second consecutive poor rainfall season and anticipated effects on agricultural and livestock production and staple food prices. Although humanitarian partners delivered food assistance in February and deliveries continue in March, they are unable to confirm assistance plans from April onward. Without food assistance, many poor and lower-middle-income households will face slight to large food consumption gaps or adopt negative coping strategies to mitigate them. Areas of greatest concern include Northern Inland, Coastal Deeh, Guban, northwestern East Golis, Addun, and Hawd pastoral livelihood zones; Togdheer Agropastoral and Cowpea Agropastoral livelihood zones; and agropastoral areas in Bakool, Bay, Gedo, and Lower Juba regions.  

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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