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GIEWS Update-detail
FAO/GIEWS Global Watch


An estimated 1.7 million people in the North, Central and Southern Regions of Somalia are facing conditions of Acute Food and Livelihood Crisis or Humanitarian Emergency at least until June ’06 (Table 1 and Map 1). If IDPs (Internally Displaced Populations) are included, estimated at 400,000, the total number of people in need of assistance throughout the country is 2.1 million people. The crisis is especially severe in the Southern regions of Somalia, where an estimated 1.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Results confirm previous early warnings of crop failure, considerable livestock deaths, rapidly increasing cereal prices, falling livestock prices, abnormal population movements, and extreme shortages of, and limited access to, water and food (see FSAU Monthly Briefs for November and December ’05).

Depending on humanitarian access and response, the potential risks for outbreaks of resource based conflict, and food and water supply shortages; FSAU further warns that there is a Moderate Risk of Famine in the coming months for Gedo and surrounding areas. Threats against the humanitarian community in January led to the suspension of flights, and therefore access to, Garbaharey and Luq districts in Gedo. This incident underscores the potential for conflict, the complexity of the situation, and implications for humanitarian response.

Further stressing the plight of the people in the South is that the drought is regional in nature, extending into Ethiopia and Kenya and covering large areas of the greater Somali livelihood system. The regional scope of this drought translates directly into fewer coping options within the greater Somali livelihood system (e.g. reduced migration and stretched social support) and greater stress on already limited resources. FSAU initiated a series of cross border meetings with technical food security partners in Kenya and Ethiopia to develop an analytical and consistent understanding of the food security crisis in the bordering regions. This initial cross-border technical collaboration between regional partners (FEWSNET, WFP, SC [UK], CARE, UNDP, USAID, OXFAM, ALRMP, OCHA, Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya) and the application of the Integrated Food Security and Humanitarian Phase Classification to the regional drought clearly delineates the extent and severity of the humanitarian crisis (Map 2).The Southern region is faced with a crisis that will continue to deepen over the coming months. The effects of the drought will only be compounded and worsen over the long Jilaal dry season (Jan-April) and depending on the extent of the loss of livelihoods and lives during this period, the region will require continued humanitarian and development support for several months to come. If the Gu ’06 rains (April-June) fail or are again below normal in the southern region, the entire region will likely face a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale that could be comparable to the 1993 famine in Southern Somalia. It must be emphasized that the humanitarian response needed for the current crisis is a multi-sector, ‘twin-track’ approach - addressing both the immediate life saving needs (food, water, health, nutrition), but also simultaneously addressing the medium-term livelihood needs in terms of the protection and rehabilitation of productive assets(livestock, seeds and tools, boreholes, water catchments, irrigation canals, rangelands). If the focus is only on addressing immediate needs – whole livelihood systems could degenerate into relief-reliant communities, deepening poverty and prolonging the humanitarian crisis.


A full range of response options is necessary, including: food aid, cash assistance, water relief and rehabilitation, livestock herd survival programmes (including destocking, breeding stock protection, provision of fodder), health and nutrition assistance, and protection of vulnerable groups.

  • Timeframe of Response: Jan. - May: Humanitarian response focused on immediate needs and medium-term protection and rehabilitation of assets. June – December: If Gu ’06 rains are good, continuation of immediate needs assistance for most vulnerable populations and full continuation of activities focused on protection and rehabilitation of assets. If Gu ’06 rains fail, increased and continued immediate needs response with expanded coverage and intensity.

  • Implementation of Response: Somali authorities, civil society, and humanitarian actors urgently need to step up interventions to prevent a large scale disaster. Somali leaders will be critical in ensuring security and access to affected areas.

  • Financial Response: Donors must urgently ensure implementing agencies and organisations have the full financial backing to implement the necessary responses. As demonstrated in previous crises, the Somali Diaspora can play a key role through remittances to help mitigate the crisis.

  • Consistent Regional Response: A balanced, needs-based humanitarian response for the entire drought affected region (Somalia, Ethiopia & Kenya) is necessary in order to prevent a further escalation of the crisis through cross border population movements and outbreaks of conflict over resources.

  • Crisis as Opportunity: The severity of the crisis will provoke critical awareness of Somalia’s situation from both the international community and Somali people’s perspective. Harnessed constructively, this energy can be used to address key underlying issues that will continue to undermine Somali livelihoods indefinitely if left unchecked. Key opportunities include, demonstrating the benefits of a functioning civil society through Transitional Federal Government leadership, and reversing the trend of massive and nearly irreversible degradation of rangelands through deforestation for charcoal production.

  • Contingency Planning: Early climate forecasts indicate the possibility of below normal Gu ’06 rains. Thus, all humanitarian actors should prepare for what will be a further deterioration in the situation, which could include widespread famine.