The Horn of Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. The extremely dry conditions have been devastating for Somalia, particularly in rural and agropastoral communities. Since late 2020, rains have repeatedly underperformed, causing crop production to fall by about 70 percent and the death of more than 3 million livestock.
This is not a unique episode. For more than half a century, a climate emergency has been growing in Somalia. Droughts, as well as floods, high temperatures, and coastal erosion, have increased in severity and frequency. A drought in 2011 led to a famine that claimed the lives of 250,000 people, while a 2017 drought brought Somalia to the verge of famine before the international community and Somali diaspora ensured that the worst outcome was adverted. Recurrent climate shocks on top of three decades of conflict have left families across the country with little if any, time to recover between emergencies.
The impact of the current drought has been worsened by the actions of violent extremist groups like Al Shabaab and by the knock-on effects of international conflicts. Somalia relies almost entirely on Ukraine and to a lesser extent Russia for wheat imports. The impact of their conflict on supply chains has meant that grain, fertilizer, and fuel imports to the country have been greatly reduced. This, coupled with the effects of the drought on local food production, has caused soaring food and commodity prices in addition to food and water scarcity. Many rural, particularly agropastoral, families are unable to cope as their food, fodder, and water stocks have depleted, given the recurrence and duration of drought, while they lack resources to afford rising food prices.
More than 1 million people have left their homes and traditional way of life in search of food, water, employment, health care and other essentials, mostly moving from rural to urban areas. All these factors combined have led to severe food insecurity. More than half the country’s population are without adequate access to food. Famine is being projected should funding levels and access not improve to facilitate an adequate humanitarian response.
South and central Somalia where Al Shabaab has the largest presence is badly affected by drought. Yet less than 10 per cent of displaced people are originating from areas deemed inaccessible due to Al Shabaab sieges. In 2022, the President of Somalia launched a military campaign with the Somali National Armed Forces and key engagement from local communities, yielding unprecedented results. Many villages are being liberated from Al Shabaab control, creating safe pathways for much-needed aid delivery and access.