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Somalia’s 2019 cereal harvest is the poorest the country has seen since 2011, when famine strained already scarce resources, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced, blaming unreliable weather patterns and climatic shocks

somalia farmingThe Humanitarian community and Somali government jointly launched a drought response plan to cover June through December 2019. (Image source: meaduva/Flickr)

Delayed rains during what is known as the “Gu” peak season for crop growing (April-June), and parched river beds, have produced harvest levels up to 70 per cent below average in some parts, according FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis United (FSNAU) report, with severe hunger looming for more than two million people in desperate need.

“In the absence of humanitarian assistance, up to 2.1 million people across Somalia face severe hunger through December,” the UN warned, citing the 2019 Post-Gu report’s conclusion that this would bring the total number of Somalis expected to be food insecure, to 6.3 million by year’s end.

Erratic climate and widespread vulnerability

The problem goes back to 2018 when poor October-December rains preceded a harsh dry season early this year. Unpredictable rainfall, followed by drought conditions during April and early May resulted in significant crop and livestock production shortfalls for July, which accounts for about 60 per cent of Somalia’s total cereal output, according to FAO’s most recent country analysis.

Around 2.2 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure, falling under phases three and four of the five-scale integrated phase classification (IPC). Phase three denotes ‘crisis’ situations with high or above-usual acute malnutrition and phase four indicates ‘emergency’ levels of acute malnutrition and high death rates.

The figure is more than 40 per cent higher than food insecure population estimates by FAO from just the beginning of this year, with an estimated 2.6 million people internally displaced, and living in makeshift settlements outside urban areas, facing hunger. “If interventions are not scaled up,” the UN stated, “one million children are projected to be acutely malnourished over the next year, including 180,000 who are likely to be severely malnourished.”

Heavy rains forecasted but response plan needs beefing-up

Rainfall predictions indicate 45 to 55 per cent probability of above-average precipitation for the next ‘Deyr’ cropping season, from October to December, the UN reported; meaning a wetter season which “will be crucial to avoid a deterioration of the food security situation in Somalia.”

The Humanitarian community and Somali Government jointly launched a drought response plan (DIRP) to cover June through December 2019. However, the US$487mn in funding received so far meets less than half of the requirement.