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Soaring food prices and delayed rains increase humanitarian needs amid a Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

  • Key Message Update
  • Somalia
  • March 2022
Soaring food prices and delayed rains increase humanitarian needs amid a Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The inter-agency IPC Acute Food Insecurity Update (conducted by experts across multiple organizations, including FEWS NET) concluded that six million people in Somalia need food assistance to prevent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes from April to June. The severity of food insecurity in Somalia continued to worsen in March, driven by intensifying drought at the peak of the jilaal dry season, elevated levels of conflict and insecurity in southern and central Somalia, and escalating staple food, water, and fuel prices. Domestic cereal shortages, the adverse impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war on imported food prices, and rising food transport costs due to high global oil prices are making it increasingly difficult for both rural and urban households to purchase food. Furthermore, weekly forecasts indicate the start of the gu rains will be delayed to mid-April, and seasonal forecasts are increasingly converging to below-average seasonal rainfall from April to June.

    • Addun Pastoral and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zones, southern agropastoral areas, and Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zone remain among the areas of highest concern, classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The revised outlook also includes the deterioration of Southern Rainfed Agropastoral livelihood zone, most of Sorghum High Potential livelihood zone, and 11 IDP settlements to Emergency (IPC Phase 4), which is associated with large food consumption gaps, severe coping strategies such as displacement and begging, and high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality. An estimated 75,000-100,000 people will likely have extreme food consumption gaps consistent with Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in central pastoral areas of Somalia, agropastoral areas in Bay and Bakool regions, and several IDP settlements that are receiving large numbers of households displaced from these areas, including Mogadishu, Baidoa in Bay Region, and Dhusamareb in Galgaduud Region.

    • The large increase in the population in need not only reflects deteriorating food insecurity among rural and displaced households, but also the impact of worsening price shocks in urban areas. Poor urban households have limited opportunities to increase their income, face increased competition for labor due to the influx of displaced or migrant rural households, and share shrinking access to social support systems due to the level of widespread need. In addition, a large fire in Hargeisa in early April destroyed most of the marketplace that provided the main livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people. Local officials estimate the fire caused 1.5-2.0 billion USD in damage, affecting 40-50 percent of the city’s economy.

    • In addition to the conclusions of the IPC Update, FEWS NET now assesses that food assistance needs will likely remain in the range of 5-6 million people between June and September. The below-average gu rains will most likely result in a fourth consecutive poor harvest in July and further livestock losses during the July to September hagaa dry season, prolonging the impacts of drought and further eroding household coping capacity. Although the number of people that received humanitarian food assistance increased from 1.25 million in January to 2.01 million in February, significant funding shortfalls are expected to limit food assistance distributions in the coming months.

    • Pastoral households continue to report excess livestock deaths across species and spontaneous sheep and goat abortions due to poor livestock body conditions, especially in northern and central Somalia and in Bakool, Gedo, and parts of Hiiraan regions. Although low levels of kidding and lambing are underway, the current poor state of livestock body conditions means milk productivity levels are far below normal. If the gu rains are further delayed or perform very poorly, more livestock deaths are expected, and many households will cull new offspring in order to save the lives of productive females. Overall, household livestock holdings are rapidly declining, and some households in the livelihood zones classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) have already lost a majority of their livestock, rendering their livelihood unsustainable.

    • In agropastoral and riverine livelihood zones, households do not have any own-produced cereal stocks left from the January harvest and must purchase nearly all of their food from the market. In addition to poor livestock production conditions, farming households face reductions in income due to low labor demand and falling labor wage rates. In riverine areas in the South, the drying of the Juba and Shabelle rivers has suspended irrigation activities and most cash crop farming, though some households will earn a little income from the recessional sesame off-season harvest, which is currently ongoing.

    • Acute water shortages are contributing to rising disease incidence, such as acute water diarrhea. Combined with low food intake, these factors are driving a rapid increase in the number of acutely malnourished children being admitted to treatment centers, with two to four-fold increases reported in some districts. Communal dams, shallow wells, and private berkeds are dry across most of southern and central Somalia, with only a few operational boreholes and water trucks providing water for purchase. Some households in southern riverine areas have dug up the dry riverbeds to collect water. With water prices in northern and central rural markets reaching more than twice the five-year average, most poor households can only purchase water on credit, further increasing their debt burdens.

    • While it is not the most likely scenario, FEWS NET and partners assess that Somalia faces a Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)[1]. In an alternative scenario in which the gu rains are delayed beyond mid-April and/or cumulative rainfall totals are significantly below average, and if humanitarian food assistance fails to reach populations in need, the resulting failure of crop and livestock production would most likely lead to an increase in the population facing extreme food consumption gaps, with an associated increase in levels of displacement, acute malnutrition, and mortality. Substantial, further hikes in food prices related to global supply and price shocks, along with the potential for rising conflict and insecurity due to delayed elections, are other factors that could interact with below-average rainfall to exacerbate the severity of acute food insecurity.


      [1] The IPC classifies acute food insecurity at the household level and area level. At the household level, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) occurs when a household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies. At the area level, Famine (IPC Phase 5) occurs when at least 20 percent of the households in a given area have an extreme lack of food; the Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence, as measured by weight-for-height z-score, exceeds 30 percent; and mortality, as measured by the Crude Death Rate (CDR), is greater than 2 per 10,000 per day.

    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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