By Rogers Aghan, March, 6, 2023, While humanitarian assistance has prevented worse outcomes and staved off famine in parts of Somalia thus far, millions of rural Somali people continue to face unprecedented challenges to their food security. Reversing the alarming trend requires not only sustained and at-scale humanitarian assistance but also transformative actions to sustainably improve food and water security, reduce people’s vulnerability to shocks and stresses, and improve their adaptation to climate change, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said today in the context of the recently released food security survey findings.
Somalia has been on the brink of famine in recent months due to the unprecedented drought triggered by five consecutive poor rainy seasons and an anticipated sixth, exacerbated by high food and water prices, conflict and poor access to water, sanitation and health services.
The latest Integrated Food Security Phase (IPC) analysis reveals that thanks to a large scale-up in multisector humanitarian assistance and slightly more favorable than previously foreseen rainfall performance, famine is no longer projected in parts of Somalia, however, the situation remains critical and ‘Risk of Famine’ persists in some areas .
The report shows that between January and March 2023, nearly 5 million people across Somalia are experiencing IPC Phase 3 ‘Crisis’ or worse levels of acute food insecurity, including 96 000 people facing catastrophic hunger (IPC Phase 5). Acute hunger is expected to rise, with 6.5 million people– more than a third of the total population– projected to be facing ‘Crisis’ or worse (IPC Phase 3 or higher) levels of acute food insecurity between April and June this year, including 223 000 people who will likely face catastrophic hunger (IPC Phase 5). Furthermore, agro-pastoral populations in Burhakaba district and displaced people in Baidoa and Mogadishu face ‘Risk of Famine’ between April to June 2023 if the 2023 Gu season rains fail and humanitarian assistance does not reach those most in need.
Sustained live-saving and livelihoods support is crucial
Amid competing priorities at the global level, and an increasing frequency of climate shocks, the humanitarian and development community must find ways to do more with fewer resources. Immediate and sustained intervention at scale is required to save lives and livelihoods of millions of Somalis who are still at risk of sliding into famine.
FAO has received $183 million accounting for 68 percent of required funds under FAO’s Somalia Famine Prevention Scale-up Plan (May 2022 – June 2023). With these funds, the Organization reached over 1 million people or 47 percent of the targeted 2.4 million. FAO urgently requires additional funding to scale up immediate access to food and basic needs in rural, hard-to-reach and inaccessible areas, as well as to safeguard livelihoods and support food production where it is still possible.
Business as usual is no longer an option
“FAO’s livelihoods assistance is saving lives and paving the way for faster recovery for many,” said Rein Paulsen, Director of the FAO Office of Emergencies and Resilience. “However, the protracted crisis now in its third year has exhausted the coping strategies of the most vulnerable, with families experiencing destitution, displacement, childhood malnutrition and even loss of life. Investments in early warning systems, flexible funding for anticipatory action and coordinated approaches to resilience building are paramount to break the cycle of year on year chronic and acute vulnerability, particularly among rural communities.”
FAO’s proposed new model requires joint and coordinated efforts to shift investments towards longer-term integrated solutions for sustainable water and food security.
As the impacts of the drought in the Horn of Africa continue to be felt, a scaled-up multi-sectoral approach to save lives and safeguard livelihoods will remain critical in 2023. The current situation demonstrates the urgent need to massively scale up investments and policies for disaster risk reduction and resilience building, highlighting agriculture’s crucial role in achieving a sustainable future for the people of Eastern Africa.