Large scale, multi-sectoral assistance will likely avert Famine (IPC Phase 5), but 6.5 million people in Somalia still face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity outcomes

Issued: February 28, 2023

1.8 million children are likely to be acutely malnourished; Risk of Famine persists in some areas

28 February 2022, Mogadishu – Large-scale humanitarian assistance and 2022 Deyr rainfall that performed relatively better than the past two seasons will likely avert Famine (IPC Phase 5) in Somalia during the January to June 2023 period. However, drought conditions persist, and 6.5 million people across Somalia are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity outcomes between April and June 2023 amid an anticipated significant scale-down of humanitarian assistance, a likely sixth season of below-average rainfall in the April to June 2023 Gu season, high food prices, and, in many areas, ongoing conflict/insecurity, on top of the lasting impacts of five consecutive seasons of below-average to poor rainfall. Among the food-insecure population, up to 223,000 people are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the most severely drought- and conflict-affected areas across Somalia through mid-2023. Moreover, high levels of acute malnutrition persist in most parts of the country, driven by chronic health and WASH factors and exacerbated by reduced food and milk intake and disease outbreaks. Based on the results of 31 nutrition surveys conducted by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and partners between October and December 2022, the total estimated acute malnutrition burden for Somalia from January to December 2023 is approximately 1.8 million children, including 477,700 children who are likely to be severely malnourished.

While Famine (IPC Phase 5) is no longer assessed to be the most likely scenario in April-June 2023, there remains a risk of such extreme acute food insecurity outcome. The 63rd Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF63) forecast for the March to May 2023 season points to below-average rainfall, high temperatures, and drier-than-normal conditions in parts of Somalia. However, the waning of La Niña climate conditions is anticipated to result in less severe rainfall deficits than earlier in the drought. Relatively higher rainfall is expected to support some improvement in cropping and livestock conditions, but it will take multiple seasons of good rainfall for full recovery. Finally, while multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance is now expected to continue at significant levels, levels of food assistance will likely decline from April to June based on current, inadequate funding levels. While these assumptions underpin the most likely scenario, there is a reasonable chance that these assumptions do not materialize as anticipated. Hence, three population groups in southern Somalia face a Risk of Famine between April and June 2023 if (1) the April to June 2023 Gu season rainfall turns out to be much poorer than currently forecast, leading to crop production failure and (2) humanitarian assistance does not reach the most vulnerable populations in these areas. The areas and population groups that face a Risk of Famine are agropastoral populations in Burhakaba district of Bay region and settlements for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Baidoa (Bay) and Mogadishu (Banadir).

The provision of humanitarian food and non-food assistance (including nutrition, WASH, and health-related interventions) has been scaled up since July 2022. Funding for assistance is currently sufficient to continue reaching over 6.2 million people per month, on average, with emergency humanitarian food assistance through March 2023.  Humanitarian assistance under the Nutrition Cluster has also been scaled up, with: (1) 120% and 94% of the targets for 2022 met for the treatment of severely and moderately malnourished children, respectively; (2) 2.31 million children vaccinated against measles and Vitamin A and deworming tablets administered to two million children in November 2022; and (3) a campaign underway to vaccinate nearly 1 million children against cholera. This is expected to mitigate the size of the acutely food insecure population and prevent the worsening of food security and nutrition outcomes in many areas. However, given the protracted severity of the three-year drought, levels of acute food insecurity across Somalia remain very high. Between January and March 2023, nearly 5 million people are still experiencing Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or higher) outcomes, including close to 1.4 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 96,000 people estimated to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), meaning they are not receiving sufficient food assistance to prevent food consumption gaps. Additionally, despite ongoing coordinated efforts, current funding levels are not adequate to sustain current food assistance levels beyond March 2023, with only 2.7 million people, on average, expected to receive food assistance between April and June. As a result, acute food insecurity and malnutrition levels are expected to increase between April and June 2023, with 6.5 million people expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. This includes approximately 1.9 million people that will likely be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and nearly 223,000 people that will likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

Urgent, coordinated, and timely funding to support the continuation of high levels of integrated humanitarian assistance (in-kind food, cash/voucher transfers, nutrition, WASH, and health-related) is required through at least June 2023, and likely through late 2023, to prevent extreme and deteriorating food insecurity and nutrition outcomes and excess mortality.

The conclusions above are based on the 2022 Post-Deyr IPC Acute Food Insecurity and Famine Risk Analyses conducted in January 2022 by 221 technical experts, representing 86 institutions (government, UN, NGO, and IPC GSU). The IPC Global Support Unit (IPC-GSU) provided technical support throughout the analysis process.

The cumulative impacts of the five-season drought have led to loss of life and severe damage to livelihoods. Consecutive poor-to-failed harvests among farmers and declining livestock holdings among pastoralists are contributing to worsening food security and nutrition outcomes due to losses of main food and income sources. In addition to poor rainfall and persistent drought, other drivers of acute food insecurity and malnutrition in Somalia include high food prices, conflict/insecurity, and disease outbreaks. As a result of these compounding shocks, many rural households have experienced erosion of their livelihoods and coping capacities, and face widening food consumption gaps. Social support systems remain overstretched. These factors have driven a surge in population displacement from rural areas to IDP settlements.


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