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Food aid urgently needed to mitigate loss of life and avert Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

  • Key Message Update
  • Somalia
  • May 2022
Food aid urgently needed to mitigate loss of life and avert Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The Somalia IPC Acute Food Insecurity Update for May 2022 (conducted by experts across multiple organizations, including FEWS NET) concluded that 7.1 million people in Somalia need food assistance to prevent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes from June to September. This estimate is inclusive of over 2.1 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and over 200,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In addition, there is a Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) if crop and livestock production fails, food prices remain high or rise even further, and food aid does not reach populations in need. The areas of highest concern for a Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) include several agropastoral areas in Bay and Bakool regions, Addun Pastoral livelihood zone, Hawd Pastoral (central and Hiiraan regions) livelihood zone, and sites hosting drought-displaced populations in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Dhusamareb, and Galkacyo.

    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are associated with elevated levels of acute malnutrition and child and adult mortality, and household survey data collected in 11 areas by FSNAU and WFP [i] in late April/early May confirmed that an alarming increase in these indicators is already occurring, especially in southern Somalia. Agropastoral areas in Bay Region are of particularly grave concern, as Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) levels have surged to 26.9 percent – approaching the upper limit of Critical (15-29.9 percent) – at the livelihood zone level. While sampling was not representative at the district level in Bay Region, provisional analysis further suggests GAM levels surpassed the Extremely Critical (≥30 percent) threshold – one of the criteria for classifying Famine (IPC Phase 5) [ii] – in Baidoa district. In addition, the child death rate reached the Emergency (IPC Phase 4) threshold in Baidoa district, and the adult death rate reached the Emergency (IPC Phase 4) threshold in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts.

    • The observed levels of GAM and mortality within agropastoral areas of Bay are extremely concerning; however, the food security indicator data do not reflect the same level of deterioration and remain well below the Famine (IPC Phase 5) threshold for food consumption. As a result, FEWS NET assesses that it is not primarily reduced food intake that is driving exceptional increases in GAM and mortality within Bay, but also low access to health services and clean water, which have led to an AWD/cholera outbreak, including in Baidoa District, and a measles outbreak, with a high share of cases in Bay. Based on the convergence of this evidence, FEWS NET currently assesses that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain most likely across Bay Region. However, this does not preclude the Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5). FSNAU is preparing to undertake a new round of data collection in Bay Region in late June, and FEWS NET will continue to regularly re-assess the likelihood of further deterioration in outcomes based on available evidence.

    • Humanitarian food assistance has reached 2.4 million people, on average, monthly since January 2022. The food consumption results of the FSNAU-WFP household survey suggested that food assistance, coupled with community social support during Ramadan and Eid, has likely mitigated the severity of food consumption deficits so far. While this assistance likely drove Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in many areas of Somalia in May, it was not adequate to prevent Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Bay Bakool Agropastoral or Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zones, where crop, fodder, and livestock production losses are very high, milk productivity is very low, and large-scale displacement is ongoing.

    • Nationally, the upward revisions to the population in need of food assistance between June and September reflect the impacts of the historically poor performance of the April to June gu rainfall season and the surge in imported food prices linked to the Russia-Ukraine war. Cumulative rainfall totals are 40-70 percent below average across most of the country, ranking it among the worst seasons in at least 70 years. Furthermore, analysis of the length, extent, and severity of this four-season drought indicate it is the most extensive and persistent drought since 1981. Meanwhile, both local and imported staple food prices have soared. In May, cereal and vegetable oil prices ranged from 40-160 percent above the five-year average in southern, central, and northeastern Somalia. In several markets, such as Xudur of Bakool Region, cereal prices already meet or exceed those recorded during the 2011/2012 famine and the 2007/2008 food price crisis.

    • The impacts of drought and food price shocks, as well as increased conflict and insecurity in south-central Somalia, on households’ ability to produce food or purchase food and water are severe. FSNAU estimates that more than three million livestock have perished since mid-2021, reflecting the large-scale loss of food and income from livestock sales, milk production, and milk sales. In addition, FSNAU and FEWS NET estimate the national gu cereal harvest in July will be at least 40-60 percent below average, and this will likely be inclusive of sub-national instances of crop failure. As this will be the fifth consecutive below-average harvest on record, household food and income from crops, crop sales, and agricultural labor have drastically declined. Consequently, household purchasing power has fallen significantly, with the goat-to-cereals terms of trade dropping by 50-75 percent across the south.

    • Given the decline in available food and income sources through September, the scale of need in Somalia far outstrips funded food and nutrition assistance plans through the remainder of the year, and pipeline breaks to food aid are expected after June. The Somalia 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan for food security and nutrition were only 20 percent and 13 percent funded, respectively, at the end of May. As a result, the Somalia Food Security Cluster has indicated that food assistance plans from July to September – the peak of the dry season – will most likely be revised downward to re-prioritize and target the populations at risk of extreme outcomes, to the degree that humanitarian access permits. WFP has already had to suspend preventive nutrition interventions and scale down coverage of treatment of moderate acute malnutrition, even as admissions of malnourished children have risen by over 40 percent in 2022 compared to last year.

    • Based on anticipated pipeline breaks to food and nutrition assistance, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to be widespread through the remainder of 2022, with more than 200,000 people likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). While Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are projected in the worst-affected areas through September, there is increasing concern that levels of extreme hunger, acute malnutrition, and mortality could reach the Famine (IPC Phase 5) thresholds if crop and livestock production for the current gu season fails, food prices remain high or rise further, and food assistance does not reach the populations most in need. Given that little to no rainfall is forecast in Somalia in June, the chances of crop and livestock production failure are high in several sub-national areas of Somalia. Meanwhile, food prices are already at record-high levels in some markets. As a result, the Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) scenario increasingly hinges on the delivery of humanitarian food and nutrition assistance. A sustained scale-up of humanitarian aid is immediately needed to mitigate the loss of life and avert the Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5).


      [i] Data was collected in agropastoral areas in Bay Region; pastoral areas in central Somalia (specifically, Addun Pastoral and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zones); riverine cropping areas in Gedo Region and Beletweyn district of Hiiraan Region; and IDP settlements in Galkacyo, Beletweyn, Mogadishu, Baidoa, Dolow and Kismayo.

      [ii] 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, reaches or 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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