2020 Somalia Humanitarian Needs Overview

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Somalia is a complex political, security and development environment, and much of its recent past has been marked by recurrent humanitarian needs linked to climatic shocks, conflict and violence. With most Somalis being dependent on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, climate-related changes leading to disrupting weather phenomena such as drought and floods, significantly affect their lives.

The humanitarian situation in Somalia remains fragile due to the impact of the prolonged 2016-2017 drought, poor 2018 Deyr rains (October-December), unusually hot and dry conditions during the 2019 Jilaal season (December-March), and erratic and abnormal performance of 2019 Gu’ rains (April-June). While this analysis is being finalized, 540,000 people have been affected and 370,000 displaced by riverine and flash flooding in Middle and Lower Juba, Bay, Lower and Middle Shabelle, and Hiraan regions. Climatic shocks, combined with other persistent drivers of needs such as armed conflict, protracted and continued displacement, have left around five million Somalis in need of humanitarian assistance.

According to the 2019 Post-Gu’ assessment results , cereal production was up to 70 per cent below average in southern Somalia for the Gu’’ 2019 cropping season. The resulting shortfall is linked to abnormally high prices of sorghum observed throughout the season. The situation is likely to worsen in conflict-affected areas where people are displaced from their land, or facing illegal taxation, reducing incentives for agricultural production. The results indicate that, in the absence of humanitarian assistance, up to 2.1 million people across Somalia face severe hunger through December 2019, bringing the total number of Somalis expected to be food insecure by year’s end to 6.3 million.

Huge food and nutrition gaps remain mainly among poor agro-pastoral, marginalized and displaced communities where many vulnerable people have been pushed into the most severe food and nutrition insecurity phases. While the number of people in need of nutrition-related assistance is higher among host communities, prevalence of severe acute malnutrition among children is increasing, mainly among IDPs, with preliminary results indicating that 10 out of 33 population groups surveyed had critical levels of acute malnutrition (i.e. global acute malnutrition exceeding 15 per cent). Without response, it is estimated that one million children will be acutely malnourished, including 180,000 children with severe acute malnutrition from July 2019 to June 2020. This, coupled with a serious lack of access to clean water and sanitation, is heightening the risk of outbreaks of water-borne diseases exacerbating existing fragilities, especially where health services are too few and/or too distant (23 per cent of non-displaced and 35 per cent of IDPs do not have access to a health care facility). Inadequate access to water and sanitation is also one of the major factors leading children to abandon school.

Serious protection concerns and rights violations persist in Somalia, putting civilian lives at risk, forcing many to flee, exposing them to multiple risks while displaced, and impeding the effective implementation of durable solutions. Many of these protection concerns stem from negative and hazardous coping mechanisms applied by destitute and severely food insecure families such as early marriage, family separation, voluntary child recruitment, child labour and hazardous adult labour. Rights violations and abuses, such as gender-based violence (GBV), including sexual, child recruitment, attacks on civilian areas and infrastructure and forced displacement remain pervasive features of the protection crisis in Somalia. Certain groups and individuals such as women, children, people with disabilities , older persons and members of marginalized communities are at particular risk of violence, exploitation, exclusion and discrimination.

Limitations on access to reporting mechanisms among affected populations, due to social exclusion and marginalization, including gender discrimination, heightens the vulnerability of the affected populations to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).

The conflict between government forces, their allies and non-state armed groups, as well as clan-based violence continue to endanger the safety of people in need and is a key driver for displacement. In addition, drought-induced population displacement has been on the rise. In July, more than twice as many people reported drought as the cause for displacement compared to June, adding to the 2.6 million IDPs who continue to face serious risks of evictions, marginalization and exclusion across the country. Risks of exclusion and discrimination are differential and intersectional, including those based on societal discrimination, gender power structures, vulnerability, and age. People with disabilities are at heightened risk of violence and abuse and experience significant barriers to access humanitarian aid, and pre-existing social stigma are exacerbated.

Somalia’s societal structure is highly complex, comprising numerous social groups, clans, sub-clans and ethnic minority groups that are not members of any specific clan. Weak local institutions, divisions and constantly evolving relations among these groups, which are also influenced by involvement of non-state armed actors, are some of the most prevalent societal characteristics and represent a key driver of the inter-community conflicts and contribute to the vulnerability of the various groups.

Displacement can aggravate existing inequalities due to the loss of livelihoods; this introduces new dimensions of marginalization and exclusion. Marginalized communities face discrimination and exclusion from social support structures, as well as services and assistance provided by aid agencies. Women, youth, and marginalized communities are denied participation in decision-making processes, including regarding humanitarian assistance. Whilst IDPs (83 per cent) generally feel relatively more informed about aid available to them than other affected people, the main reported barrier to accessing information (and by extension aid) is the lack of community connections.

Community organization can be deemed central to improving local governance structures and by extension (potentially) improve people’s access to services. These dynamics have disproportionately affected IDPs from minority groups or those with weak social connections in host communities, negatively impacting their access to assistance and protection. This context is a high-risk environment for SEA as the affected people receiving aid depend on others for their survival. SEA of crisis-affected people committed by actors who provide aid constitutes the most serious breach of accountability by the humanitarian sector.

Shelter and non-food items (NFIs) needs are also very high, especially in IDP sites where many IDP households live in makeshift shelter (Buul). These makeshift shelters do not provide adequate privacy and protection against weather elements. Lack of security of tenure, evictions and fire incidents further exacerbate shelter and NFI situation of IDPs. About one-third of the population lack essential NFIs.

There is no reliable data on the number of people with disabilities in Somalia, so estimates must be drawn from global prevalence and the context of Somalia as a country affected by ongoing conflict and a low human development rating. WHO estimates that 15 per cent of the global population has a disability and that 80 per cent of those people live in developing countries. It is likely that Somalia’s rate is closer to 20 per cent, due to conflict-related disability and environmental factors, and that most families will have at least one member with a disability.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.
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