• Renewed climatic shocks: Desert Locust infestation in new areas; at least 500 pastoral families displaced in Puntland due to water shortages in parts of Puntland and Somaliland.
• Since 16 March 2020, 4,690 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 127 associated deaths, have been reported in Somalia.
• Humanitarian access further complicated by climatic events and the condition of infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
• As of 28 December 2020, donors generously provided 81.6 per cent of the US$1.01 billion requested in the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), enabling partners to reach more than 2 million people with life-saving assistance.
• Upcoming general elections and implications on humanitarian operations.
Alarming water-crises in Somalia and movement of Pastoral Communities.
By the end of 2020, Somalia continued to face multiple threats, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Desert Locusts and poor rains from the Deyr season. In the north of the country, the situation was further aggravated by unprecedented rainfall and strong-winds from Cyclone Gati in November, which caused flash floods resulting in crop, livestock and property losses, particularly in Iskushuban district of Bari region. Approximately 120,000 people were affected, including the displacement of around 42,100 people.
In December, Food Security Cluster partners in Middle Shabelle region reported the invasion of new swarms of Desert Locusts. The new locust swarms crossed from Hiraan region causing damage to the pasture-rich areas. The presence of locusts in south Somalia had already devastated pasture resources and farms, including different types of crops. In parts of Bari region in Puntland, a renewed locust infestation was also reported, affecting both nomads and farmers.
There was an increase in reports of water shortages in parts of Puntland and Somaliland, especially the coastal parts of Bari, Nugaal and Sanaag. By the second week of December, close to 500 pastoral families had been displaced in Puntland. Women and children remain most affected. In Somaliland, the water crisis is critical, especially in Togdheer region due to the failure of the Deyr rainy season. The shortages have caused movement of pastoral households to Ethiopia in search of water and pasture. In Gedo region, Jubaland authorities reported the dire need for water for rural communities and their livestock given the poor Deyr rainfall. This situation is expected to worsen through March 2021.
Round-up of Covid-19 Situation in Somalia
According to the Federal Ministry of Health and the WHO country office, 12,698 suspected cases of COVID-19 were tested between 29 November and 19 December 2020, of which 165 were confirmed to be positive. The majority (69.6 per cent) of samples tested were from the Banadir region, followed by Somaliland (21 per cent). Six new deaths were recorded during this period: three from Somaliland, two from Banadir region and one from Puntland State.
Since 16 March 2020, 4,690 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 127 associated deaths, have been reported in Somalia. The large majority (83 per cent) of confirmed cases have been aged between 20 and 60 years, with a median age of 33 (ranging from 1 to 110 years), and 74 per cent have been male. The cumulative positivity rate, since the start of the outbreak, has declined gradually and stands at 6.4 per cent, whilst the cumulative case fatality rate stands at 2.7 per cent.
According to the national Health Cluster, an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases was reported in Somaliland and Puntland in November, while there was a decline in Banadir, Hirshabelle, Jubaland and Galmudug states. Testing has been increased following the setup of additional labs in Puntland and Somaliland. The exact reason for the increase in the two specific locations is unknown, but it is suspected that it may be related to behavioural factors. To understand this, WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health to continue to provide surveillance systems, including at the community level through community engagement teams jointly supported by the Ministry, WHO and UNICEF. After improvements in the reach of surveillance Rapid Response Teams, only 17 “silent” districts remain.
Over the period of the response, 19 isolation centres were established in Somalia. Due to low utilization, as only severe cases were presenting to the isolation centres, WHO has scaled down to 16 isolation centres with a capacity of 300 beds in 51 high-priority districts. Stand-by capacity remains if scale-up is needed. It remains concerning that generally good practices such as mask wearing and social (physical) distancing and health-care seeking behaviour remain low.
Consequences of Access Constraints on the Humanitarian Operation in Somalia
Humanitarian access is defined as the ability of humanitarian actors to reach affected people, as well as the affected population’s ability to access humanitarian assistance and services in a timely and unimpeded manner. Multiple constraints varying from armed hostilities or physical difficulties to excessive and time-consuming administrative requirements may hamper humanitarian access in different contexts.
In Somalia, challenges related to the physical environment constitute a substantial element that complicates humanitarian access. Obstacles related to terrain or climatic events, and the condition of infrastructure such as roads and bridges, substantially limit humanitarian access. For instance, in November 2020, obstacles related to the physical environment that limited or prevented road access amounted to roughly one third of all access challenges reported across Somalia. During this month, flooding affected several districts in Banadir, Lower and Middle Shabelle as well as Lower Juba, limiting or preventing access along the main routes that connect Jowhar to Mogadishu and Afgooye to Wanla Weyn towns.
These physical access constraints have a serious impact on the humanitarian situation in areas that become inaccessible for long periods of time. Not only are critical humanitarian deliveries such as nutrition supplies delayed but the availability of commercial goods is also curtailed, potentially increasing the vulnerability of the affected population. For example, in Jowhar town, which depends on main supplies of food and other essential commodities coming from Mogadishu, humanitarian partners reported shortages of food and other commodities including drugs, as well as a 5 per cent increase in food prices due to limited supplies that are transported via boats or donkey carts.
Climatic events are also an important factor that affect the physical environment, limiting humanitarian access. The most recent example is Cyclone Gati, that made landfall in Bari district on 22 November. Heavy rainfall and strong winds damaged the main road that connects the port town of Bossaso to Qardho town, situated on the crossroads that link major population centres. Road access to areas heavily affected by Cyclone Gati remain extremely challenging, impacting the emergency humanitarian response. Humanitarian partners on the ground noted that some of the main roads were damaged during Cyclone Pawan in December 2019, and further degraded by the heavy rains and flooding of Cyclone Gati.
Compounding other limitations for road movements due to insecurity along the main routes, these physical constraints further complicate humanitarian access across Somalia and contribute to the vulnerability of affected communities. Advocacy for a safe operating environment continues. Following collective efforts and engagement by OCHA and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Bardaale District Council has announced the reopening of the Bardaale airport and efforts are underway to resume humanitarian flights.