Water shortages, livestock deaths and skyrocketing food prices exacerbated by ongoing conflict and global supply shocks have caused a rapid deterioration of food security according to a report issued today jointly by FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Famine early Warning Network (FEWSNET). The report warned that Somalia faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in mid-2022 if the forthcoming April to June Gu rains fail, purchasing power declines to record lows, and food assistance does not reach areas of high concern.
Timely humanitarian action prevented more extreme outcomes during the last multi-season drought in 2017, however the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan is drastically underfunded, risking a scenario of too little, too late for many Somali families. The report urged sustained humanitarian assistance, alongside improved humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas in order to prevent the loss of lives and livelihoods and to avert the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5).
The severe and prolonged drought conditions have led to a significant deterioration of food security outcomes for many rural Somalis in the first quarter of 2022. Up to 5 million people now require urgent humanitarian assistance, with 1 million of them already likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in the most affected areas. Over that same period the number of people displaced almost tripled from around 245,000 to almost 700,000 people moving to urban settlements and Internally Displaced People’s camps in search of assistance according to UNOCHA.
The joint FSNAU-FEWS NET report also warned that the upcoming Gu Rains in April – June will not be sufficient to break the drought either, with a fourth consecutive below-average rainfall season predicted in April-June 2022.
Preventing Famine requires urgent aid scale up
Past trends demonstrate the potential for multi-season droughts to lead to famine in Somalia, such as in 2011-2012 when an estimated 260,000 people died of hunger-related causes. Timely humanitarian action can prevent such disastrous outcomes, however the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan is still only 3.8% funded, and preventing another famine requires an urgent scaling up of humanitarian aid.
“Unless we are empowered to act now, by a significant injection of resources, we will start to see irreversible loss of lives and collapse of livelihoods and increased population displacement from the rural areas, as we have in the not-so-distant past,” warned FAO Representative in Somalia, Etienne Peterschmitt. “The data is very clear. Our window to prevent the worst is closing fast. If we cannot reach rural communities where they are in the coming months, the burden of collective responsibility for what is to come will be heavy indeed.” he said.
The UN, government and humanitarian partners are ramping up responses in order to meet critical needs and to avoid disastrous consequences. However, without additional funding soon the response will come to a standstill at the worst possible time.
“We are at an extremely critical juncture, I cannot emphasize this enough. Many of us have been down this road before, we simply cannot afford to let it happen again,” said Peterschmitt. “The human toll of our potential failure to act in this regard is unacceptable.”
FAO’s drought response in Somalia
FAO is urgently calling for 80.4 million to assist 634,800 people in rural communities of 52 districts across Somalia. The support includes emergency cash transfers to help families get immediate access to food, and also livelihood support as well as a nation-wide livestock treatment campaign. Saving livelihoods saves lives, but livelihood support is disproportionally underfunded and every USD1 spent on protecting rural livelihoods can save USD10 spent on food related humanitarian assistance later on.
FAO’s Cash+ assistance in rural communities helps to keep families and communities together during crisis, reducing psychosocial and physical risks to the vulnerable, paving the way for a faster, future recovery.