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High needs persist despite improved forecast for April to June gu rainfall

  • Key Message Update
  • Somalia
  • March 2023
High needs persist despite improved forecast for April to June gu rainfall

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • March is typically the end of the jilaal dry season, but this year relatively heavy rainfall was received in March according to data from CHIRPS, in particular in many northwestern and southern areas. The atypical rainfall has improved the availability of pasture and water resources, though vegetation conditions are still below average in many central and southern areas. According to the results of a field assessment conducted by FSNAU and FEWS NET in late March 2023, rainfall has supported fairly typical land preparation and planting for the gu season in agropastoral areas (including in southern, central, and northwestern regions), with some farmers in the south engaging in early planting. However, heavy rainfall also caused rapidly rising river levels and flooding in localized areas, leading to destruction of road infrastructure in affected areas and damage to off-season crops in Gedo, Middle Juba, and Middle Shabelle regions. In the worst-affected areas of Middle Juba, up to 50 percent of standing off-season crops were reportedly lost due to flooding. On the other hand, flooding will most likely facilitate recessional cultivation in the Juba region and other riverine areas.

    • Most of the country faced a hotter and drier-than-normal jilaal season prior to the atypical March rainfall, prolonging the severe impacts of the historic five-season drought on pastoral communities. Livestock body conditions in northern and central pastoral areas deteriorated further during this time due to insufficient pasture and water resources. Milk production is also currently at seasonally low levels and is likely to remain atypically low in the coming months due to expected low kidding and calving rates in the April to June 2023 gu season. Household access to milk will be further limited by significantly below-average herd sizes, reducing access to this important, nutrient-dense food source.

    • Staple food prices have declined significantly between January and March, though they remain at above-average levels. For example, in the key reference market of Baidoa (Bay), prices of the local staple, sorghum, declined by nearly 30 percent from January to March, but remained 22 percent above the five-year average. Prices of maize in other reference markets, such as Qoryoley (Lower Shabelle) exhibited similar trends. Declining food prices in these crop-producing areas are due to increased supply from the 2022 deyr harvest as well as the sustained influx of humanitarian assistance.

    • According to information from the Somalia Food Security Cluster (FSC), 4.5 million people were reached with emergency humanitarian food assistance in March 2023, despite previous plans to scale down to reach only 2.7 million people that month. Revised FSC plans now indicate that around 4-5 million people will be reached monthly in the April to June period, in contrast to previous plans to reach only around 1-2 million people each month due to funding shortfalls.

    • According to revised forecasts in March, cumulative rainfall in the April to June 2023 gu season is most likely to be near average. This is an improvement from past forecasts which called for another season of below-average rainfall. Should the improved forecast manifest, this would likely drive greater-than-anticipated improvements in access to food and income from crop and livestock production during the gu season. However, improvements will depend on the timing and distribution of received rainfall, and it will take multiple consecutive seasons of good rainfall to facilitate the recovery of livelihoods following the severe impacts of the historically prolonged drought.

    • Despite high levels of multi-sectoral assistance, the ongoing 2020-2023 drought claimed the lives of an estimated 46,000 people in 2022 alone. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes currently remain widespread, with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Throughout the projection period, severe outcomes are expected to persist, and humanitarian assistance remains vital to preventing even worse outcomes in many areas. However, the impacts of revised plans for higher levels of food assistance from April to June and the impacts of the evolving gu rainfall forecast are currently being analyzed, and revised expectations for acute food insecurity outcomes and the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) are forthcoming in April. Agropastoral populations in Burhakaba (Bay), displaced populations in Baidoa and Mogadishu, pastoral areas in central Somalia, and agropastoral areas in Togdheer region remain among the areas of highest concern.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Somalia Key Message Update March 2023: High needs persist despite improved forecast for April to June gu rainfall, 2023.

    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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