Somalia's Drought Crises: Immediate Action and Change of Strategy Needed

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Wednesday April 12, 2017 - 19:56:28 in Latest News by News Editor
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    Somalia's Drought Crises: Immediate Action and Change of Strategy Needed

    MOGADISHU - Somalia is currently experiencing severe drought affecting the entire country from the largely pastoral arid lands of the north through the central and southern breadbaskets.

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Hamda Mohamed Ibrahim, 25, of Dacawaley village in Somaliland, has lost two children to malnutrition in the past 18 months. Now she is worried about losing another.
MOGADISHU - Somalia is currently experiencing severe drought affecting the entire country from the largely pastoral arid lands of the north through the central and southern breadbaskets.
The drought was caused by the poor Gu‟ rainy season from April-June 2016 and a failed Deyr rainy season from October-December 2016. 
The most affected communities are in southern agricultural and agro-pastoral areas and in the northern pastoral areas like Sool, Sanaag, Togdheer, Awdal, Mudug, Galgaduud, Nugaal and Bari where scarcity of food and water, together with spiralling food prices and the deaths of livestock, have forced many families into unbearable destitution and displacement. Many droughtaffected IDPs are currently living on the side of the road without any proper shelter.

In early January 2017, many pastoral communities in the Sool, Sanaag and Mudug regions came together at the village of Humbeys, about 90 kilometers east of Qardho in the Bari region, where a brief rainfall yielded animal pastures. With the small pasture exhausted due to overgrazing, the local population and the new arrivals are all faced with scarcity of food and water, and there is concern that conflict could break out over the few resources available.
The drought also seriously affected communities straddled along Somalia‟s border with Ethiopia such as Buuhoodle, Wajaale, Matabaan, Gedo, Galdogob and Derusalem. Although these communities face almost same challenges, they have attracted less attention from the humanitarian communities.
Sool is among the worst hit regions in Somaliland. The impoverished pastoral communities who have lost most of their livestock have gathered in the Oog neighborhood and set up a makeshift camp beside the main road leading to Laas-Caanood. Some of the residents in the camp pointed out
that despite being there for four months they had not received any assistance except occasional visits from the United Nations and other
international aid agencies on assessment missions.
Likewise, the humanitarian situation in the southwest state of Somalia continues to worsen. The drought has become more severe because of the dwindling economic capacity of the local communities, leading to increased food scarcity, augmented morbidity and high levels of acute malnutrition. Infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, diseases spread quickly and people can no longer grow crops or keep livestock, contributing to the deteriorating food insecurity. This promotes extreme levels of malnutrition.
As Al-Shabaab is away from the road and deep in the forest, the situation for pastoral and agropastorals looking for humanitarian assistance and water for their livestock in places like Hudur in the Bakool region is improving. However, the price of water has increased exponentially in the
southwest region including Hudur where road blockages by Al- Shabaab and lack of access to health care and safe drinking water are the most
pressing challenges for relief workers.
The prices of maize in Qoryooley is now 51 percent above the five-year average, and the price of sorghum in Baydhabo is 88 percent above average. The level of the Shabeelle River is nearly 60 percent below average for this time of the year, limiting access to water for livestock and crop production. The January Deyr harvests are likely to be 60-70 percent below the five-year average and among the lowest on record.
Compared to earlier droughts, this one is devastating in terms of magnitude and severity and the speed at which it claims lives and destroys livelihoods. The affected communities have described it as Sima, a Somali word referring to its encompassing nature and wide ranging impact.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), as of 21 February 2017, more than 135,000 people have been displaced inside Somalia due to the drought. People are abandoning their settlements and heading to villages, towns or roads leading to the cities because of acute livelihood insecurity. Currently, over 6.2 million people, including close to one million children, are stressed or in need of urgent life-saving support.
These recurring droughts that have repeatedly hit Somalia since 1964 have caused profound social, economic and environmental impacts. The
drought-affected areas become more vulnerable, and the short intervals between droughts leave the affected communities with little time to recover. These cyclical droughts have also caused extreme food insecurity, poor health care, and lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. This has resulted in the deaths of humans and of livestock and the destruction of farm and grazing lands, leading to displacements, endemic diseases, rural migration, urban poor and increased child mortality rates throughout Somalia. 
HIPS researchers traveled to drought affected areas in Somaliland, Puntland and the southwest and observed the impact of droughts on the livelihoods of the affected communities. This paper aims to contextualize the recurrent drought in Somalia, describe its severity and magnitude and explain the root causes and other contributing factors. It also examines current humanitarian interventions, draw conclusions and finally suggest some policy considerations.


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