Aid workers scale-up COVID-19 response as the Somali Government gradually opens the economy
Somalia continues to face a dire humanitarian situation, with an estimated 5.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. This is attributed to cumulative shocks, including erratic 2020 Gu season, (monsoon-like rainfall) widespread and severe seasonal flooding, desert locust infestation, socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, and protracted conflict -and flood-related displacement.
According to the 2020 Post Gu Seasonal Food Security and Nutrition Analysis for September (FAO/FSNAU), an estimated 1.3 million people are facing Crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or higher) outcomes through September 2020, even in the presence of humanitarian assistance. This number is expected to increase to 2.1 million people through December 2020, in the absence of humanitarian assistance.
An additional 2.5 million people are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), bringing the total number of people experiencing acute food insecurity to 3.8 million. In addition, 849,900 children under the age of five years face acute malnutrition over the next 12 months (September 2020 to August 2021), including 143,400 likely to be severely malnourished.
The 2020 gu season exhibited erratic performance, with rains starting as early as late March in many parts of Somalia, then intensified in April, with heavy rain leading to riverine and flash floods through September, impacting food security according to FSNAU.
The 2020 Gu harvest in southern Somalia is reportedly 40 percent lower than the long-term average for 1995-2019, mainly due to successive and severe flooding, erratic rainfall, a prolonged dry spell, and protracted insecurity/conflict. In northwest regions, the 2020 Gu/Karan cereal production (harvest expected in November) is estimated at 45 percent lower than the average for 2010-2019, mainly due to erratic rainfall.
The current and projected levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition in Somalia remain high although both the magnitude and severity are lower compared to earlier projections. This is in part due to support provided by the Government and large scale and sustained humanitarian assistance that have prevented the worsening of food security and nutrition outcomes across many parts of Somalia.
According to the Somalia Food Security Cluster, an average of 1.85 million people received food assistance monthly from April to August. Approximately 400,000 people also benefitted from government-led rural and urban safety net programs. In April, the Government enacted a 20 to 100 percent tax exemption on imported food commodities in order to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the population.
Humanitarian needs are likely to increase in 2021 due to the influence of a La Nina that is currently developing (75 percent chance through February 2021). Potential drought conditions will likely develop as a result of below-average 2020 Deyr rainfall (October to December), a harsh 2021 dry Jilaal (January to March) season, and a possible delay and/or poor performance of the 2021 gu (April to June).
Food Security partners have recommended sustained support through December 2020 to address the urgent needs of the people who are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and livelihoods for people in Stressed or worse (IPC Phase 2 or higher), who are likely to slide into Crisis or Emergency when they are unable to cope with shocks. Urgent nutrition and health support is required to address the needs, including for areas with high prevalence of acute maternal malnutrition.