Drought has worsened significantly across Somalia following three consecutive below-average rainy seasons. According to FAO/SWALIM, drought conditions are expected to worsen in December 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, leading to a similar situation witnessed in 2017. The intensifying drought has led to water shortages, crop failures, and high levels of livestock migration and deaths. This comes only two years after a devastating drought that impacted hundreds of thousands of lives, placed additional strain on communities, stretched the humanitarian response and displaced over 300,000 people.
The drought is already having a devastating impact on the lives of Somalis. As of 17 December, more than 3.2 million people in 66 of the country’s 74 districts are affected by the drought; of whom 169,000 displaced in search of water, food and pasture. The drought has been particularly harsh in Jubaland, Southwest and Galmudug states (central regions) and parts of Puntland. Severe water shortages and drought conditions have also been reported in parts of Jubaland, South West (Bakool, Bay), and Banadir regions. Many locations rely on shallow wells and water pans in which water levels have decreased significantly, contributing towards the worsening water shortages. Humanitarian partners and local authorities also report widespread livestock deaths and a spike in the prices of commodities like food, fuel, water and livestock fodder. In November 2021, water prices spiked in most districts in Somalia compared to the last reporting period. Eastern and central parts of Galmudug state, most parts of Jubaland and South West State and surrounding areas, reported the highest median water prices. This was mainly attributed to insufficient rains received during the Deyr season that could not replenish ground water source. Severe drought conditions are also leading to the possibility of pathogen accumulation in stagnant water. Concerns remain of people and livestock using contaminated waters, sharply increasing the risk of an Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD)/cholera outbreak. WASH humanitarian partners in collaboration with the national and local authorities are scaling-up their responses through water trucking, water source chlorination and rehabilitation of existing water sources to address critical needs but insufficient funding is hindering their capacity to reach more people in need.
Without a scale up of humanitarian assistance, an estimated 3.8 million people across Somalia will face severe forms of acute food insecurity through January 2022, rising to 4.6 million people by May, according to FSNAU/FEWNET. Prevalence of acute malnutrition remains high in most drought-stricken parts of the country, with Global Acute Malnutrition at Serious (10 to 14.9 per cent) and at Critical (15 per cent or more) levels in some of the worst affected areas. Some 1.2 million children under the age of 5 are likely to be acutely malnourished in 2022, of whom nearly 300,000 children are projected to be severely malnourished and may be at risk of dying without immediate treatment. Disease outbreaks, including AWD/cholera are on the rise due to severe water shortages and lack of access to adequate hygiene and sanitation facilities, the majority being in IDP sites. This, combined with insecurity and recurring climatic and other shocks, including Desert Locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic, has exacerbated the already precarious humanitarian situation in Somalia. Some 7.7 million people are projected to require humanitarian assistance in 2022. Based on the current drought severity scenario, an estimated 1,379,000 people may be displaced by drought in the coming 6 months.
There are considerable opportunities to incorporate lessons learned from the previous droughts. Improved data forecasting coupled with knowledge of anticipatory or early action can ensure a more targeted scale-up of responses. Systems are in place to facilitate rapid scaling-up of cash-based programming and increased involvement with local actors. Coordination between the Federal Government and state-level authorities has increased, allowing partners to progressively agree on the nature and scale of the drought and to improve overall accountability.
The time to act is now. This Operational Plan outlines the priority needs, gaps, and strategies for humanitarian partners to address the drought and work towards averting a possible famine respond over the next six months. All interventions outlined here have been incorporated into the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan.
Acknowledging the dire situation in Somalia, US$8 million was allocated from the Central Emergency Response Fund on 19 November for immediate response to the drought, including scaling-up food and nutrition assistance, safe water provision, livelihood protection and other urgent humanitarian assistance to drought-stricken people across the country. A portion of this allocation will be used to fund services in anticipation of rising food insecurity, thereby mitigating the impact of deteriorating conditions. Additionally, the Somalia Humanitarian Fund will provide $6 million to the response.
Regional dimension of the crisis
The drought in Somalia cannot be seen in isolation. All countries in the Horn of Africa are negatively impacted by the three consecutive seasons of below average rainfall, with Somalia most severely affected. Areas that have been particularly hard hit include parts of northern and eastern areas of Kenya, Ethiopia’s Somali region, and Somalia, where reports indicate that people are fleeing to nearby towns in search of humanitarian assistance. All warning systems and signs point to an exceptional drought, which has been declared an emergency in Kenya and Somalia. Food insecurity in southern and eastern Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia has already worsened significantly in 2021, with severe conditions (IPC Phase 3 "Crisis" and Phase 4 "Emergency") dominant. Climate change combined with La Niña has resulted in prolonged and persistent drought. This has resulted in poor harvests and body conditions for livestock and has led to crop and livestock production decline that has had a negative impact on food availability. Current climate projections predict a 90 per cent possibility of a La Niña-like climate between March and May 2022, while the most recent IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) weather assessment anticipates cumulative dry conditions through May 2022. These projections show that even with typical March-April-May rains, the region will continue to have long-term rainfall shortages.