An estimated 5.4 million people are likely to be food insecure by September.
GENEVA, Switzerland, June 5, 2019 -This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Ahead of World Environment Day tomorrow, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for urgent additional support to help people affected and displaced by drought in Somalia.
Below average rains during the “Gu” (April-June 2019) and “Deyr” (October – December 2018) rainy seasons have caused worsening drought in many parts of the country. An estimated 5.4 million people are likely to be food insecure by September.
Some 2.2 million of these will be in severe conditions needing immediate emergency assistance unless aid is urgently scaled up.
The drought has also forced more than 49,000 people to flee their homes since the beginning of the year as they search for food, water, aid and work mostly in urban areas. People who are already displaced because of conflict and violence are also affected by the drought, at times disproportionally.
More than 7,000 people were displaced last month alone.
Three main regions of Somalia – South Central, Puntland and Somaliland – have been affected, despite marginal to average rains and flash flooding in some regions. The worst affected areas include the Sanaag, Sool, Awdal, Bari, Nugaal, Mudug, Galgadud, Hiran regions of the country.
The latest drought comes just as the country was starting to recover from a drought in 2016 to 2017 that led to the displacement inside Somalia of over a million people. Many remain in a protracted state of displacement.
UNHCR and humanitarian partners fear that severe climatic conditions combined with armed conflict and protracted displacement could push the country into a far bigger humanitarian emergency. Decades of climatic shocks and conflict have left more than 2.6 million people internally displaced.
To avert a humanitarian crisis, aid agencies launched a Drought Response Plan on 20 May, appealing for US$710.5 million to provide life-saving assistance to 4.5 million people affected by the drought. To date this is 20 per cent funded.
UNHCR has been working with partners and government agencies to assist those affected and displaced by the drought by providing emergency assistance in some of the most affected areas.
Worldwide, weather-related hazards, including storms, cyclones, floods, droughts, wildfires and landslides displaced 16.1 million people last year alone.
With climate change amplifying the frequency and intensity of sudden disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and tornados, and contributing to more gradual environmental phenomena, such as drought and rising sea levels, it is expected to drive even more displacement in the future.
UNHCR is calling for more international action to prevent climate-related disasters, scale up efforts to strengthen resilience and to protect people affected by climate change using all available legal frameworks.
The country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms.
NEW YORK, United States of America, May 23, 2019 – Despite Somalia’s persistent security threats, recurrent political crises, capacity constraints and the difficulties in navigating political obstacles to its reform agenda, the Horn of Africa country remains on a “positive trajectory,” the UN Security Council was told on Wednesday.
Briefing the Council, Raisedon Zenenga ,the Deputy Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), reported that the country had made significant progress on its economic and security sector reforms. There had also been progress on the inclusive politics agenda as well, including the constitutional review process and preparations for the universal suffrage elections.
“The Federal Government has decided to apply the same rigorous approach to bring accountability and transparency to the security sector,” he said, noting, among other recent steps, the completion in March of biometric registration of all Somali National Army soldiers. All 16,000 soldiers registered were now receiving their salaries directly into their bank accounts.
“This has cut out middle men, reduced corruption, and ensures regular payment of salaries to military personnel. It also paves the way for rightsizing the National Army,” said Mr. Zenenga.
In parallel with these security sector reforms, the Federal Governments had launched military operations in Lower Shabelle region to advance the Transition Plan, degrade Al Shabaab in strongholds that are contiguous to Mogadishu and thereby halt the recent increase in Al Shabaab attacks in the capital.
Yet, Somalia continued to grapple with significant challenges, he said, explaining that the Federal Government’s reform efforts have encountered “inevitable” resistance. The economic reforms and security sector reforms entail dismantling a war economy that had flourished for decades.
“There are many vested interests which pose obstacles to increased accountability. Taking on these vested interests requires not only the determination, which the Federal Government has shown, but an inclusive approach of building relationships with all stakeholders to demonstrate that the reforms will yield benefits for the whole nation,” Mr. Zenenga stressed.
He also noted that the dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland, which also has implications for the completion of the constitutional review process, remains stalled. “We are, however, encouraged by ‘Somaliland’ President Muse Bihi’s remarks on 18 May expressing his readiness to promote peace with Puntland, including through the exchange of prisoners, and to cooperate with Somalia on issues related to security, trade and education.”
Recalling that UNSOM began the new year facing a security crisis as a result of the mortar attack on the UN compound on 1 January, and a political crisis as a result of the expulsion of the Special representative of the Secretary-General Nicholas Haysom on the same day, Mr. Zenenga said the two incidents had severely disrupted the Mission’s engagement with the Federal Government of Somalia and had also elevated the security risk level for UN personnel and left our staff deeply demoralized.
While the Mission had immediately prioritized the safety and security of its staff while concentrating political efforts on mending relations with the Federal Government, Mr. Zenenga underscored that a lasting solution to the continuing security threat “will come from denying Al Shabaab the space and opportunities to prepare and launch attacks.”
Despite such challenges, he said Somalia has “immense opportunities” to make further progress in the coming months. He set out the following prescription for making headway:
“The trajectory is upward, and we can all work together to energize Somalia’s population and their international partners towards reform and progress,” he concluded.
Also briefing the Council, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller, said that ongoing armed conflict and violence, as well as recurrent climatic shocks continue to drive humanitarian needs in Somalia. Governance challenges and underdevelopment compound fragility and make it difficult for communities to develop robust coping mechanisms.
She said that the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, launched in January, identified 4.2 million Somalis – one third of the population – in need of life-saving assistance and protection. This shows a decline in needs from 2017, when famine was averted, raising hope that resilience activities led by the Government and development partners could make further gains.
“However, current humanitarian indicators across the country are showing a deterioration,” said Ms. Mueller, spotlighting three areas of concern: the severe drought conditions that have spread from northern and central areas throughout the country following two failed rainy seasons; the situation of internally displaced persons; and protection concerns.
“We must act now to avert a major humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian partners stand ready to deliver aid to those most in need and are capable of rapidly scaling up response, as was proven during famine prevention efforts in 2017,” said, but cautioned that significant funding shortfalls are constraining response and leading to a reduction in assistance in critical areas, including health, nutrition, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
“I believe I was invited to brief you today to draw attention to the elevated risk of a major humanitarian crisis unfolding on the horizon. The immediate scale up of humanitarian response is essential to mitigate the impact of the drought and to prevent further breaking up of communities that continue to be fragile from the drought in 2017,” she said.
She encouraged the international community to urgently increase support for life-saving drought response efforts and to protect gains made in 2018, and added that it was here hope that immediate resources will be received to help us prevent a dramatic crisis from escalating.
Life-saving and livelihood support urgently needed to prevent loss of lives.
ROME, Italy, May 16, 2019 – A disastrous drought in Somalia could leave some 2.2 million people – nearly 18 percent of the population – faced with severe hunger during the July-September period, FAO warned today.
The UN agency issued a special alert on Somalia, indicating that the number of hungry people in the country this year is expected to be 40 percent higher than estimates made at the beginning of 2019.
A deteriorating nutritional status is also of major concern, according to the alert. Acute malnutrition rates as well as the number of acutely malnourished children being admitted to therapeutic feeding centres have sharply increased in 2019.
“Rains in April and early May can make or break Somalis’ food security for the whole year as they are crucial for the country’s main annual harvest in July, following the “Gu” rainy season,” said Mario Zappacosta, FAO Senior Economist and lead of the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).
“A significant lack of rains in April and early May has rendered dry and barren up to 85 percent of the croplands in the country’s breadbaskets, and according to the latest projections, food grown during the “Gu” season is likely to be 50 percent below average,” he added.
The latest projection is based on data gathered by FAO experts – including sophisticated analyses of rainfall, temperatures, water availability and vegetation health – that point to the worst drought in years. Some rains are expected in May, but these will be insufficient and arrive too late for crop and pasture recovery before the onset of the dry season.
For example, in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, which produces more than 60 percent of maize grown during the “Gu” season, severe dryness has prevailed so far, with only some scattered, below-average rains occurring in late April and early May.
Drought conditions also affected other major crop producing areas, including the Bay region’s “sorghum belt”, which accounts for more than half of the country’s sorghum production during the “Gu” season, and the “cowpea belt” in Middle Shabelle, Mudug and Galgaduud regions.
Drought takes a heavy toll on herders and their livestock
Poor rains since last October have also taken a heavy toll on herders and their livestock as vegetation has been drying up and water has been increasingly scarce.
The FAO alert warns of a worrying number of animals in very poor health conditions – due to low body weight and drought-induced diseases – in the country’s central and northern regions.
“Herders in the worst drought-affected areas – such as central Galgaduud and in northern Bari and Sanaag regions – have been forced to slaughter the offspring of their goats and sheep as they don’t have enough fodder and water for all their animals, and try to save the milk-producing female livestock,” said FAO Somalia Representative Serge Tissot.
“Many herders have not been able to replace livestock lost during the 2017 drought that ravaged the country, so they already have less resources. Now, on top of that, as food and water become scarcer, they have to pay higher prices for trucked-in water and their daily food,” added Tissot.
Action is needed now to prevent loss of lives
Drought and early depletion of food stocks, compounded by declining employment opportunities and low wages for farmers, shortages of livestock products in pastoral areas as well as both heightened conflict and a reduction of humanitarian assistance since early 2019 have all led to a sharp deterioration of the food security situation in the country.
FAO is scaling up its response to prevent an already alarming humanitarian situation from getting even worse. For this, FAO urgently needs more funds as it aims to support 2 million drought-affected people this year by providing critical livelihood support such as cash assistance, quality seeds, tools, and other agricultural services so farmers can make the most of the next planting season.
To protect their remaining livestock, herders require vital support such as water and supplementary feed. Countrywide animal health campaigns must also be rolled out quickly – starting with emergency livestock treatments to keep animals alive, healthy and productive.
Currently, FAO has a funding gap of about $115 million in Somalia.