In early 2015, a good Deyr harvest and improved pastures contributed to small improvements in food security in Somalia. However, 731 000 people are expected to remain acutely food insecure through mid 2015, and fragile gains are undermined by continued conflict, access constraints and underfunding.
In the second half of 2014, food insecurity began to rise in Somalia for the first time since the 2011 famine. By September, over 1 million people were severely food insecure and 2 million faced stressed levels of food security owing to the effects of poor seasonal rains, rising food prices and ongoing fighting.
Below-average rains during the 2014 Gu rainy season resulted in poor harvests, leaving still a significant aggregate production gap for 2014 despite the following normal Deyr rains. By the end of the year, the median global acute malnutrition rate for the country was 12 percent (and 15.3 percent in south central Somalia). About 1 in 7 children under 5 years of age are acutely malnourished and 1 in 10 children die before their first birthday. Some 7 out of 10 Somalis do not have access to safe water sources.
The 2011 famine demonstrated the importance of early warning being matched by early action. As food and nutrition security indicators in Somalia have flagged a deepening crisis, FAO has rapidly reallocated existing funds, mobilized additional resources and adjusted ongoing programmes in order to assist severely food-insecure rural families through cash-for-work, livestock redistribution, animal health support and help in preparing for the next planting season.
Getting people back on their feet
Conflict, drought, disease and environmental degradation are the major drivers of humanitarian crises in Somalia, where the majority of the population relies on subsistence farming and pastoralism for their livelihoods. One missed planting season or the loss of livestock will push most families deeper into poverty and hunger. In conflict areas, where movement of people and humanitarian supplies has been restricted and trade constrained, sharp price increases have been recorded for staple foods. In 2015, livelihood-saving support in the form of cash transfer initiatives, agricultural inputs, alternative income-generating opportunities and livestock assistance is vital to prevent further deterioration in food security. Through these initiatives, FAO Somalia is assisting the country’s most vulnerable communities while working to help Somali farmers to boost yields. Likewise, FAO Somalia is vaccinating livestock against widespread disease, as well as ramping up animal health services and disease surveillance and monitoring.
The combination of high food prices and reduced incomes has hit Somali families hard, but FAO Somalia is working to restore incomes and build stronger local economies. One way is through cash-for-work schemes, which provide vulnerable families with daily wages in exchange for work on beneficial community infrastructure, from building feeder roads for easier market access to digging catchments for drinking water and canals for crop irrigation.
Timely information key
Having access to accurate and timely information before, during and after a disaster is essential for quick decision-making. FAO manages the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, which provides evidence-based analysis of Somali food, nutrition and livelihood security. This analysis not only helps inform emergency responses, but also longer-term planning aimed at enhancing Somali communities’ resilience to drought and other shocks.