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Press Releases & Updates

08 OCT 2012

Somalia food and livelihoods alert

An Oxfam survey of households living in poverty across South Central Somalia and Puntland has found that recent poor rains, falling incomes and high food prices are increasing the risk of preventable disease and forcing people to rely on aid. The situation in the south of the country remains critical with alarming malnutrition figures.

Almost three quarters of people questioned are concerned they will not have enough to eat over the next four months because of the loss of livestock and livelihoods during last year’s drought, and continued insecurity and poor rains this year. Since the assessment took place, flooding in Hiran and predictions of flooding elsewhere in South Central Somalia is likely to make the situation worse.

Somalia’s “Gu” 2012 rains – the country’s major rainfall that occurs between April and June each year – were significantly lower than average. Between July and August 2012, Oxfam conducted a limited, top-line assessment in 40 districts across South Central Somalia and Puntland of the impact that poor Gu rains are having on Somalis who are still recovering from last year’s crisis. Researchers focused on the poorest people using a combination of:

  • 1,802 household interviews;
  • 240 community based focus group discussions on issues that arose during the household interviews;
  • direct observations.

The Deyr rainy season from October 2011 to January 2012 brought high rainfall, resulting in increased agricultural production. However, following the subsequent poor Gu 2012 rains, Oxfam has found that many regions are facing severe water and food shortages with children and pregnant women being most vulnerable.

In the coastal zone of Mudug, it is highly likely that an increasing number of people will fall into crisis, and there is particular concern about the southern region, especially South East Gedo, Lower Juba and Bakool, which remain in crisis made worse by a lack of water and high levels of malnutrition.

In contrast, there has been a relative improvement in security in Mogadishu, coupled with increased economic investment and sustained delivery of aid. This seems to have improved people’s access to water, food and health care.

Malnutrition rates have slightly improved compared to this time last year, when more than
260,000 children were acutely malnourished. However Oxfam’s assessment found that the situation remains critical across the southern regions of the country. This is supported by estimates from the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) that 236,000 children remain acutely malnourished.

Key Findings

Access to water

  • People were concerned about the danger of water sources being contaminated and the distance they had to travel to fetch water. More than half of the people questioned say they are travelling at least one kilometre each way to collect water, and a quarter of the people travel more than two kilometres.  Women from pastoralist communities in Gedo said they can face a round trip of up to 18 kilometres to collect water – a journey which was of even greater concern due to the risk of insecurity.
  • Three-quarters of those questioned say they do not treat their water. Those who take water from unprotected shallow wells, ponds and rivers are highly likely to contract waterborne diseases, especially as water quantity and quality is expected to decrease over the coming months with water points becoming overcrowded.
  • In areas currently supplied by water trucking, the price of water is rising and people are worried that prices could increase fourfold over the next few months.

Access to food

  • 72% of those questioned are concerned they will not have enough to eat during the next four months. In order to cope, 42% said they are already skipping meals, and 18% say they are eating less per meal.
  • People say that the average family is spending US$28 (HK$218) a week on food and fuel. For a typical family of eight, this is equivalent to just 50 cents (HK$3.9) per person per day. At current market prices this would not pay for the minimum food intake.
  • Oxfam’s analysis of the survey results and trends shows that many people are still very reliant on food, water and other aid provided by local and international agencies. Any reduction in aid would hit the poorest people hardest.

Incomes

  • Overall, Oxfam found that incomes were two-thirds lower than during a normal Gu season, because of decreases in livestock, crops, and milk production.
  • Opportunities for farm labouring jobs have been poor due to reduced farming activities, putting the most strain on women who make up approximately 70-80% of agricultural labourers.
  • Poor families are increasingly looking to make money from collecting bush products such as grass, crop stalks, firewood and construction materials. Charcoal remains a major source of additional income with the price of a 50kg bag remaining 30% above the three- year average.

Health

  • Just 44% of mothers with children under the age of one are breast feeding for more than six months. Given the high risk of water contamination, this low rate of breast feeding could lead to an increase in infant illness, malnutrition and premature death.
  • Access to basic health care is a major concern because facilities are widely seen as inadequate. As many as 28% of those surveyed said they did not live near a health facility and 80% said they needed more facilities. The regions that reported the greatest concern around health care were Bakool, Gedo, Mudug and Middle Shabelle.
  • Oxfam’s analysis of the assessment results revealed a disproportionately high number of women dying because of pregnancy complications. Pregnant women are at high risk of dying from preventable illnesses, but are not finding the necessary treatment.

Livestock

  • The livestock sector is critical to economic and cultural life in Somalia, providing food and income to more than 60% of the country’s population. This year, goat prices are around 20% above the three-year average and remain steady. At these prices, the sale of one goat would give a household of eight people enough maize to meet their food requirements for 45 days.
  • However, last year’s crisis resulted in massive loss of livestock and herd sizes have not recovered. Goats have managed to retain their value since then, but the poorest families say they choose not to sell any animals as their herds are too small and they would prefer to keep their few remaining animals.
  • There has been a significant change in livestock ownership patterns as a result of last year’s drought. Cattle ownership has decreased while camel and goat ownership has increased because they are more resilient to drought.

Overall, recovery from last year’s crisis is slow due to the enormous loss of livestock and on- going insecurity. Current levels of aid need to be scaled up in areas affected by flooding, and targeted more effectively if more people are to stand a chance of dealing with the crisis. The international community and all international and national agencies operating in Somalia must build on the improvements made over the last year with increased focus on resilience to ensure long-term sustained recovery.