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Drought in the Horn of Africa driving up acute hunger in Somalia

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) warned that the dire new hunger data out of Somalia sheds additional light on the extended drought’s crippling impacts 


The FAO further underscored the criticality of large-scale agricultural aid to keep rural families self-reliant, fed, and in their homes in the Horn of Africa region.

The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment in Somalia indicates that the number of people experiencing crisis, emergency or catastrophe levels of hunger is poised to surpass 6 million people in between April and June - representing 38% of the country’s population. Additionally, the analysis suggests that 81 000 people are likely to experience death and starvation. 

“These highly alarming figures are the strongest indicator to date of a worsening situation. Across the Horn, millions of people are at risk of falling into ever-more severe levels of hunger due to the cascading effects that drought is having on people’s livelihoods, household productive assets, and local food production,” said Rein Paulsen, director of emergencies, FAO. 

This is an unprecedented fourth season of drought to hit these communities, alongside other impacts like conflict, COVID-19, macroeconomic challenges, and a recent desert locust upsurge, Paulsen noted. As a result, people’s means to produce food and earn income are stretched to the breaking point. 

According to the IPC classification system, prior to the release of the new Somalia data, between 13.1 - 14.1 million people in the region were estimated to be facing crisis or worse levels of acute insecurity through May 2022 solely as a result of the drought. This included 5.5 - 6.5 million people in southern Ethiopia, 4.1 million people in Somalia and 3.5 million people in Kenya. If the new Somalia IPC numbers were factored in, this regional estimate would rise to 15 - 16 million people.

FAO launched an urgent appeal on 17 January for US$138mn in humanitarian funding aimed at providing relief to pastoralist and farming families whose livelihoods are being shredded by drought. The FAO’s response plan included a range of support measures including keeping pastoralists’ animals alive and productive by providing feed, water, and veterinary care; distributing drought-tolerant early-maturing varieties of sorghum, maize, cowpea and other beans and vegetables to families that practice cropping, and implementing cash transfers and cash-for-work programmes to ensure the most vulnerable can access food. However, it has only secured US$50mn in contributions.