Experts warn of famine in drought-hit Somalia

Delayed rains, rising food prices and persistent insecurity in Somalia are likely to worsen the country’s food security situation.

A study by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia, a project managed by FAO and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), shows that about 857,000 people require urgent humanitarian assistance through June 2014.

The nutrition study carried out between November 2013 and January 2014 indicates that about 203,000 children under five are acutely malnourished. This figure includes 51,000 children that face a high risk of death.

The study shows that food security in the Horn of Africa nation is likely to deteriorate particularly in the Lower and Middle Shabelle Regions (major maize producing regions in Somalia), due to persistent insecurity and displacements, delayed current season rainfall, and their impacts on agricultural labour demand and staple food prices.

Delayed and poorly distributed rains are also a major concern in the mainly pastoral northeastern part of Somalia.

According to FAO’s Water and Land Information Management Unit Swalim, the Gu (Somali’s main rainy season) season that starts in mid-March in the northwest parts of Somalia was delayed and kicked off in early and mid-April, while most parts of the Northeast and central regions are yet to receive the Gu rains.

The first two weeks of April were mostly devoid of rain across the northeast, while the northwest has fared better, although still below normal. This has led to early depletion of freshwater sources for human and animal consumption.

“The two major rivers that support irrigated agriculture, the Juba and Shabelle, are currently below their normal levels for this time of the year and one metre lower compared with the levels of last year,” says FAO.

Early Gu planting started in most parts of the south from March, although the intensity of cultivation has been relatively low in Lower Shabelle and Hiran.

SOURCE: The East African