Drought is widespread across Somalia warn ACTED teams in the country. In Puntland, severe drought has directly affected up to 150,000 people and has displaced an additional 12,000 people, according to the consortium. In parts of Somaliland, the average distance to water points has risen to 50 kilometres, while some communities are traveling as far as 125 kilometres, making water consumption drop below 3 litres per person per day. Overall, more than 320,000 children are acutely malnourished and need urgent nutrition support. The Somalia NGO Consortium, of which ACTED is a member, contends that drought is widespread across Somalia.
Southern Somalia usually has two rainy seasons, or in other words, a bimodal rainfall. Deyr rains usually last from October through December/January, affecting Somalia’s secondary harvest, when a fair amount of the deyr crop is irrigated. The other main agricultural seasons is from April through June, when Gu crops are produced. Needless to say, agriculture is an important activity in Somalia in terms of both meeting the population’s food needs and generating income through crop sales. In addition to two decades of violent conflict, which has created a protracted and complex emergency situation, poor rains in the semi-arid nation has aggravated the humanitarian situation, contributing to poor harvests, hence, hunger and malnutrition.
So far, rainfall during this supposed- rainy season has been extremely limited. That, in addition to high temperatures, have led to dire drought conditions throughout the country ranging from moderate to extreme. The water shortages and crops losses have affected 5 million people so far, with 1.4 million persons facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity through the month of December. The severity of food insecurity is predicted to exceed that of the January – March 2014 lean season, according to the Inter Agency Working Group on Disaster Preparedness for East and Central Africa.
The Somalia NGO Consortium, of which ACTED is a member, contends that drought is widespread in Puntland, Somaliland, and most parts of the southern regions, including Hiraan, Galgaduud, Gedo, Lower Shabelle, Mudug and Lower Jubba. In Puntland, severe drought has directly affected up to 150,000 people and has displaced an additional 12,000 people, according to the consortium. In parts of Somaliland, the average distance to water points has risen to 50 kilometres, while some communities are traveling as far as 125 kilometres, making water consumption drop below 3 litres per person per day. The lowest SPHERE minimum standard of basic water needs is set at 7.5 litres.
Overall, more than 320,000 children are believed to be acutely malnourished and need urgent nutrition support. In some villages, older children are asked to skip meals and give their food to livestock instead so younger children could survive on milk. Education has been disrupted as families tend to move and relocate in search of food and water. In addition, vegetation records are believed to have surpassed those observed during the 2010/2011 drought, which claimed up to 258,000 people lives.
The crisis is spreading into the region
In 2010/2011, the drought catastrophe extended well beyond Somalia and affected all of the Horn of Africa. The current crisis is also affecting the three other countries of Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia, as a result of the 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon, has suffered severe drought. Humanitarian actors and the government expect up to 5.6 million people to need emergency food assistance in 2017 due to the drought currently impacting southern and south-eastern regions. It is estimated that
- 1.2 million children and pregnant and lactating mothers will require supplementary feeding.
- 300,000 children will become severely acutely malnourished.
- 9.2 million people will not have regular access to safe drinking water.
This, in addition to thousands of people, who have been left destitute after losing their productive assets due to El Niño, and who continue to have acute recovery needs.
In Kenya, an estimated 1.25 million people have been affected by drought, especially those who live in the norther Arid and semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) region. The country’s pastoralist communities have seen their milk production drop by at up to 60 percent, with eight counties reporting drought-related livestock deaths. Many more households are expected to experience food gaps during the dry season (January through April).
In the wake of the devastating 2010-11 drought in the Horn of Africa, governments and the international community recognised the need for transformative, systemic change to break the cycle of food insecurity in the region. The IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI) strategy was developed to address the effects of drought and related shocks in the IGAD region in a sustainable and holistic manner.24 Social protection mechanisms such as Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net Programme have made it easier for people to absorb, cope with, and recover from damages caused by natural disasters.25 At the same time, the capacity of governments within the region to respond has grown significantly; the Government of Ethiopia, for example, led on early action from August 2015.
The ongoing drought crisis is expected to last until at last the second quarter of 2017, and possibly even beyond. With falling water levels and failing crops and pasture, there are concerns of outbreaks of Acute Watery Diarrhoea as well as other diseases.
The region is in crisis. We cannot wait for those rains to fail – we must collectively act now to prevent this crisis becoming a catastrophe, and implement the lessons learned from the 2010-11 drought, in which 258,000 people lost their lives.
There is dire need to urgently respond to this crisis in various regions of Somalia and Somaliland and all actors need to act now to avert any further food and livelihood crisis!