Up to 2 million people in Southern Somalia are likely to be in a ‘humanitarian emergency’ or ‘acute food and livelihood crisis’ for at least the next six months due to failed rains, double the number previously projected, according to the latest report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Somalia is experiencing a dangerous confluence of factors that almost certainly will lead to rapidly plummeting humanitarian conditions throughout Southern regions,” FAO said, urging immediate food aid for the Horn of Africa country where 14 years of protracted civil war and persistent fragmented conflicts have eroded livelihoods.
“Failed rains throughout Southern Somalia will lead to the lowest Deyr harvest in over 10 years. Rangelands are in very poor condition, with livestock dying and pastoralists struggling to find water and fodder,” it added, summarizing recent data from the Food Security Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSAU), implemented by FAO and funded by the European Commission and USAID.
“Our concern now is that the global donor community seizes this window of opportunity to prevent images of mass starvation as we have seen in Niger and Sudan,” FSAU Chief Technical Advisor Nicholas Haan said.
The next rainy season is not expected to provide relief until June. This year’s previous cereal harvest in July was the worst in a decade, with combined production probably around 25 per cent of the long term average and less food stocks and money available to vulnerable groups to cope with further shocks.
Several areas have on-going resource-based conflicts, causing human displacement and death as well as disrupting markets and animal migration patterns. As yet unresolved tensions within the Transitional Federal Government, combined with reports of continued imports of military weapons, could lead to widespread civil conflict, which would further devastate humanitarian conditions.
Relief groups have limited access to some areas most critically in need of aid. Further, the upsurge of piracy off the Somali coast limits food supply lines for both commercial and humanitarian imports. Acute malnutrition is already significantly above acceptable levels and the physiological capacity to resist further stress is limited.
The Deyr rainy season is equally bad in neighbouring areas of Ethiopia and Kenya, greatly restricting migratory options and limiting social support mechanisms. Although the most severe Humanitarian Emergencies are expected in the south, both the central and northern Somalia is also experiencing food and livelihood crises requiring aid.