Somali communities affected by El Niño induced drought receive life-saving assistance

Andrew Kobylinski

A severe drought has hit Somalia, with hundreds of thousands of people experiencing water shortages and food insecurity. This drought, compounded by the recent global El Niño phenomenon, has added new challenges to the pre-existing humanitarian situation in the region. In response the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien released US$11 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to enable humanitarian partners in Somalia to scale up critical life-saving activities for approximately 224,000 of the most vulnerable people in need of assistance. 

“These funds are critical for saving lives and preventing further deterioration of people's livelihoods. CERF's timely support will help ensure the survival of communities struggling to meet basic needs such as access to food, water and health care," said the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien.

The El Niño induced drought is most severe in Puntland and Somaliland. Resulting from the failure of four rainy seasons, the severe drought has left Somali communities facing significantly increased risks to their livelihoods. Many have had to confront perishing livestock, disease outbreaks, food insecurity and limited access to water. Some locations have experienced almost a 90 per cent crop failure. This has devastated communities dependent on agriculture, with large numbers of pastoralists abandoning the most acutely affected locations to find basic feed and water. 

Poorer pastoralists are more vulnerable as they cannot afford to move their livestock. Due to high costs of water they potentially face increasing indebtedness to survive. The situation is expected to worsen if water in affected areas is completely depleted. 

This CERF Rapid Response grant will fund humanitarian partners such as FAO and WFP to provide a range of critical response activities, including the provision of cash transfers for food, work to restore community assets and vaccination of animals. The funds will also enable IOM, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO to provide emergency health services to prevent child malnutrition as well as health and hygiene kits in the affected areas. A joint project between UNICEF and IOM to truck water to affected communities and rehabilitate critical water infrastructure is also funded by the grant. 

"CERF funds will support the initial response and enable the provision of life-saving assistance at the most critical moment. However, more is needed to address the scale of this developing crisis," warned USG Stephen O’Brien. "I call upon the international community to do all it can and ensure that resources are available to help meet the humanitarian needs of those Somalis most at risk."

Overall, the humanitarian situation in Somalia continues to be dire, with an estimated 4.7 million people — or 38 per cent of the population — food insecure. Over one million are estimated to be internally displaced, with many of these struggling to meet their minimum food requirements. Some 305,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, with approximately 20 per cent of these children at risk of losing their lives if urgent humanitarian support is not provided.

The El Niño global climatic event has had a devastating impact on tens of millions of people across the globe in 2015 and 2016. CERF has been one of the quickest and largest supporters of early humanitarian action in response to the El Niño phenomenon. Since mid-2015, the Fund has allocated around US$102 million for life-saving activities in response to drought, floods and cyclones that can be linked to El Niño.

Find more information on CERF El Niño related allocations (link)

For the latest updates on the situation in Somalia visit ReliefWeb (link)

Find more information about CERF Rapid Response Grants in 2016 (link)