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Drought complicates recovery for Somalia

As Somalia begins to beat the path of economic reforms boosted by the peace dividends it has had in the recent past, one disaster threatens the horn of Africa nation; drought.

In November 2016, drought was declared nationwide by federal and regional authorities. Many months later, impact of the drought and resulting crisis has overwhelmed national response capacities in Somalia. 

According to a preliminary Rapid Drought Needs Assessment by World Bank, the latest dry spell has led to livestock-related losses of between $1.3 billion and $1.7 billion for the period of the drought. Crop production losses is estimated to have hit up to $60 million and depletion of nominally functional water resources, over 50 per cent of which are located within highly drought stressed areas.

Further, an estimated 6.2 million people are in need of aid this year alone (more than half of the total population), with 2.9 million needing urgent life-saving humanitarian assistance. About 320,000 children under the age of five years are acutely malnourished and are in need of urgent nutrition support. 

The impact on health is even heavier, 50,000 children are severely malnourished and far more vulnerable than any other group. 

“The drought and famine condition has led to up to 41,250 Acute Watery Diarrhoea/cholera cases including estimated 6,188 admissions by June 2017, and sharp increases in displacement,” the World bank wrote in its latest analysis of the country’s economic situation underlining the impact of drought.

After a peaceful and smooth transfer of power this year, the new administration attempted to tackle the hunger situation. The government presented a Humanitarian Response Plan at the London Conference in May 2017 which increased the appeal to $1.5 billion to reach 5.5 million people with urgent life-saving humanitarian assistance.

Somalia is not alone in the dire situation. According to the United Nations, the current food crisis is the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945, with more than 20 million people across a number of countries facing famine or the risk of famine over the coming six months. An estimated 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition. Livestock death,  water shortages, and rising rates of malnutrition have been reported  in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and  South Sudan. Somalia’s seem to be too severe because of its poor economy and the mix of conflict, climate change and drought and is further aggravating already protracted displacement and other cross border spill overs. 

The famine in Somalia has increased the number of refugees and internally displaced people is rising, with a  resulting strain on already overstretched government facilities and systems. 

“The proposed Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project seeks the approval of the WB’s Board of Executive Directors to provide grants of $50 million equivalent from the International Development Association (IDA) Crisis Response Window to respond to the dire and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia. Somalia is on the brink of famine resulting primarily from severe drought” UN wrote in its September updates.

Somalia’s non-accrual status to IDA, is expected to give it an advantage on the exceptional circumstances in the Horn of Africa. But the impact of drought on the economy will be felt for a long time after its displacement impacts of an economically active population.

With the devastating hit on the livestock sector, drought has disrupted the largest employer in rural areas with nomadic cultures, and the largest export which has for a long timer been the key focus of the economy overshadowing the fisheries market.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (2015) estimated that Somalia exported a record 5 million heads of livestock to markets in the Gulf of Arabia in 2014 (4.6 million goats and sheep, 340,000 cattle, and 77,000 camels), with an estimated total value of $360 million. 

The effects coming at a time when the livestock industry has been recovering following the lifting of a nine-year ban on the import of livestock from Somalia (aimed at preventing the spread of Rift Valley fever), with exports of live animals on the increase at both the Berbera and the Bosaso ports is a huge setback for the country and will need a unique long-term intervention to recover fully.

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