Late rains and other irregular weather patterns have worsened the Somalian food security situation. The lack of rainfall has already affected the pastoral northeastern region and the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, both of which are major maize producers.
The late Gu rains, which make up the major rainy season, have exacerbated an already tenuous situation in Somalia, where conflict has already caused sharp increases in food prices and disrupted other important markets. Some areas have seen double-digit increases in the prices of maize and sorghum. In the south, prices have risen as much as 60 and 80 percent since the previous year. During March, the Bakol region witnessed a price increase between 40 and 50 percent on imported food products such as rice, sugar, wheat flour and vegetable oil.
These factors, combined with the lack of funding for relief programs, has left many facing the threat of starvation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) currently estimates that 857,000 Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance. This figure includes 203,000 malnourished children under age 5.
“[The people of Somalia] need urgent support to improve their food security and maintain their livelihoods, most of which depend directly on agriculture,” said Luca Alinovi, Head of the Somalia Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.
The FAO is currently seeking $18 million to stage rapid interventions to prevent Somalian food security from worsening. A little more than a third of this assistance would help provide temporary employment for about 13,000 households through FAO’s Cash-for-Work program, a system that provides wages for families who work on community infrastructure like roads and canals. Another $5.5 million would provide 15,000 households with adapted crop production inputs for the upcoming Deyr season, a minor wet season from October to November. $3.2 million would allow for the restocking of livestock for 4,000 pastoralists, and $3 million would be designated for pest control and disease prevention in livestock.
The FAO has planned these interventions for the next three months. Target areas are Hiran, Bari, and Middle and Lower Shabelle, Galgadug and Bakol regions.
The Gu rains resumed in early May, but in order for the food security situation to improve, they must continue through the remainder of June. The FAO expects improved conditions in August and September, but not enough to outweigh the current damage. The immediate future of food security in Somalia relies greatly on the Deyr season and the impact of outside assistance.
The current situation in Somalia is very similar to the 2011 famine that affected the region. The factors that contributed to the loss of life and livelihood during that time are occurring now, and the possibility of a second famine exists if steps are not taken to alleviate the damage.
In 2012, the U.N. declared an end to famine in Somalia, but more than two million people are still considered food insecure. This represents about a 17 percent decrease from early 2012.
As part of its initiative in Somalia, FAO maintains Somalia’s Water and Land Information Management Unit (SWALIM) to monitor weather patterns and climate changes, as well as the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), an organization that monitors food and livelihood security in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Sources: FAO 1, FAO 2, FSNAU, Global Food Security Journal, SWALIM