Early May brought favorable rain, but dry conditions are forecast to resume in mid-May
Following atypically dry conditions in most of north-central Somalia in April, there was a relative improvement in rainfall distribution and amounts during the May 1-10 period. Field information and remote-sensing data both indicate that southern, central, and parts of northwestern Somalia received light to moderate rainfall, with localized instances of heavy rainfall. Despite this improvement, there were still many areas – including in Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Bari, Nugaal, Mudug, Hiraan, Middle Juba, and Gedo regions – that received little to no rain. According to preliminary CHIRPS data, most of southern and central Somalia received up to 50 mm of rain (Figure 1), though ground information shows somewhat lower quantities. CHIRPS data also show that parts of the northeast and northwest received 10-25 mm of rain. Compared to the 39-year average, rainfall totals were average to slightly above average across most of the country, with localized deficits of 10-50 mm occurring in the north (Figure 2); however, ground conditions suggest deeper deficits. According to FAO SWALIM river station gauge data as of May 15, water levels along the Shabelle River have finally risen and now meet or exceed the long-term average. However, water levels along the Juba River vary from below to above average, depending on the gauge location. While the risk of flooding is low, the long delay in river regeneration until now has adversely affected irrigation and planting activities.
In the northwest, ground information indicates most livelihood zones in Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sool, and Sanaag regions were near to completely dry during the May 1-10 period. Conditions were reportedly driest in Awdal and Woqooyi Galbeed, while Sool and Sanaag only received localized, light rainfall in small pockets of Northern Inland Pastoral and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zones. In Togdheer, only Hawd Pastoral livelihood zone received 2-3 days of moderate to light rainfall, which improved access to water and will likely improve pasture regeneration over the coming weeks. However, these rainfall amounts were still insufficient to break the drought cycle, given that the severity of recent water deficits has resulted in higher-than-normal water demand for vegetation and water sources to regenerate.
In the northeast, the long delay in the onset of the gu rains is resulting in one of the driest seasons on record in Bari Region, according to CHIRPS rainfall ranking data. Most of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug regions have received little to no precipitation since March. According to ground reports, only parts of Northern Inland Pastoral, East Golis Pastoral of Bari, and parts of Hawd Pastoral of Nugaal livelihood zones received localized light showers, which had little effect on rangelands. As a result, drought severity is deepening across the northeast as the lack of rainfall and above-average temperatures combine to further deplete water and pasture resources, leading to increased livestock emaciation and deaths.
In central regions, where a lengthy dry spell followed a false start of the rains in March, the May 1-10 period finally brought some rain to Galgaduud and southern Mudug regions. *Hawd and Addun Pastoral *livelihood zones received moderate rainfall with normal distribution, while localized light to moderate rain fell in Cowpea Belt Agropastoral areas of Xarardheere, Ceeldheer, and Ceelbuur districts. However, little to no rain was reported in most areas of Coastal Deeh Pastoral zone. Despite the relative increase in rainfall, rangeland conditions remain poor to below average and are likely to deteriorate again, as livestock will quickly deplete fresh pasture.
In the south, reports on rainfall performance were mixed during the May 1-10 period. According to field reports, most livelihood zones of Hiraan, Gedo, Middle Shabelle, and Middle Juba regions had little to no rainfall; however, remote-sensing data show light to moderate amounts. Conversely, both ground information and remote-sensing data show localized, light to moderate rainfall across most of Lower Shabelle and moderate to heavy rainfall in most of Lower Juba, Bay and Bakool regions. Rain gauge stations recorded 127 mm in Diinsoor (Bay), 72 mm in Xudur (Bakool), 54 mm in Baydhaba (Bay), 36 mm in Afgooye (Lower Shabelle), 27.5 mm in Beledweyne (Hiraan), 22 mm in Jamaame (Lower Juba), and 5 mm in Saakow (Middle Juba). Meanwhile, water gauges along the Juba and Shabelle Rivers monitored by SWALIM showed significant increases in river water levels compared to late April. This has finally permitted some farmers to begin land preparation, planting, and canal rehabilitation activities for irrigation, though prospects for crop development are limited due to the short time remaining in the growing season.
According to the satellite-derived eVIIRS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for May 1-10, the gu rains have been inadequate to alleviate vegetation deficits, which remain widespread in southern and central regions and large areas of the north and are indicative of atypically poor cropping and pasture conditions (Figure 3). The NOAA Climate Prediction Center's seven-day weather forecast through May 20 also predicts dryness will persist across most of the country. However, localized light to moderate rains are expected in coastal areas and adjacent agropastoral and pastoral areas of Lower Shabelle and Lower and Middle Juba regions (Figure 4).