Somalia: 6.7 million people face acute hunger as threat of famine persists

IPC Map of Somalia - April/June 2017 most likely scenario

New assessment underscores growing scale of need

A large-scale humanitarian response has so far managed to hold the line against famine in Somalia via a combination of interventions – including rural livelihoods support and cash-transfers being delivered by FAO.

But the cumulative effective of an extended drought and failed harvests over multiple seasons are having a major impact on rural families and food security, pushing the country to the brink just five years after the crisis of 2011 that claimed the lives of over a quarter of a million people.

There is still an elevated risk that famine could break out, according to analysis from the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit - Somalia (FSNAU) released on 9 May 2017.

The new FSNAU data shows that over half of the country’s population -- 6.7 million people –are now acutely food insecure (IPC 2,3 and 4). That is up from 6.2 million in February. Of these, 3.2 million are coping with severe food insecurity (IPC phases 3 and 4).

Food insecurity is particularly intense in rural areas: 68 percent (2.2 million) of all people in IPC 3 & 4 are rural farmers and pastoralists; 9 out of 10 people at greatest risk – IPC 4, the brink of famine –-are rural.

The April-June rains that each year support Somalia’s main Gu growing season and rejuvenate pastoral lands have now started – but they started late and rainfall has been below average in many places. Meanwhile, displacement, disease and compounding needs are causing food security to further deteriorate.

“While large-scale humanitarian assistance has reduced household food consumption gaps and contributed to reduced staple food prices, there remains an elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) due to the combination of severe food consumption gaps, high acute malnutrition, high disease burden, and reliance on humanitarian assistance,” FSNAU’s 9 May alert says.

The large-scale humanitarian response has staved off the worst through a combination of interventions, but needs are growing.

FAO’s response

In rural areas, livelihoods are people’s best defense against famine.

In one of the biggest field operations in the agency’s history, FAO is helping rural families at high risk meet immediate food requirements through cash transfers while giving them the means to continue farming (seeds and other inputs), raising animals (veterinary care), and producing the food they need to survive the crisis.

These interventions also help mitigate displacement pressures, reduce the overall humanitarian burden, and are laying the groundwork for future recovery.

Highlights of FAO deliveries so far include:

  • $8.5 million injected into Somalia’s economy via cash payments to 440,000 people -- $4.6 million in April alone.
  • 8.9 million animals have been treated for parasites, illness and injury, benefitting 1.3 million people
  • 11.4 million litres of water have been delivered to 107 sites across Somalia on a regular basis (3 deliveries of 10,000 liters per site per week) to sustain livestock
  • 848 tonnes of sorghum, maize, cowpea and vegetable seeds distributed for Gu planting, with more on the way
  • Via cash for work operations, 136 agricultural infrastructure rehabilitation projects have repaired water catchments, irrigation canals, and anti-erosion soil bunds that support crop production and livestock watering.