The interagency IPC Acute Food Insecurity Update (conducted by experts from multiple organizations including FEWS NET) concluded that six million people in Somalia will need food assistance from April to June to prevent a crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse. The severity of food insecurity in Somalia continued to worsen in March, driven by the intensification of the drought at the height of the jilaal Dry season, heightened levels of conflict and insecurity in southern and central Somalia, and escalating basic food, water and fuel prices. Domestic grain shortages, the adverse impact of the war between Russia and Ukraine on imported food prices, and the rising cost of food transportation due to high global oil prices are making it increasingly difficult for both rural and urban households to purchase food. Additionally, weekly forecasts indicate that the onset of *gu* rains will be delayed to mid-April, and seasonal forecasts are increasingly converging on below-average seasonal precipitation from April through June.
Addun Pastoral and Hawd Pastoral Subsistence Zones, Southern Agropastoral Areas and Togdheer Agropastoral Livelihood Zone remain among the areas of highest concern classified as an Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The revised outlook also includes the degradation of the *Southern Rainfed Agropastoral* livelihood zone, most of the *Sorghum High Potential *livelihood zone and 11 displaced persons settlements into the Emergency (IPC Phase 4), which are associated with large gaps in food consumption and severe coping strategies associated with displacement and begging, and high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality. An estimated 75,000 to 100,000 people are likely to experience extreme gaps in food consumption associated with the disaster (IPC Phase 5) in Somalia’s central pastoral areas, agropastoral areas in the Bay and Bakool regions, and several displaced person settlements, which host large numbers of displaced households , matched areas including Mogadishu, Baidoa in the Bay Region and Dhusamareb in the Galgaduud Region.
The sharp increase in the needy population reflects not only the increasing food insecurity of rural and displaced households, but also the impact of worsening price shocks in urban areas. Poor urban households have limited opportunities to increase their income, face increased competition for labor due to the influx of displaced people or migrants into rural households, and have shrinking access to social support systems due to the scale of widespread needs. In addition, a major fire in Hargeisa in early April destroyed most of the marketplace, which was the main livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people. Local officials estimate the fire caused $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion in damage and impacted 40 to 50 percent of the city’s economy.
In addition to the conclusions of the IPC update, FEWS NET now estimates that food aid needs between June and September are likely to remain in the range of 5-6 million people. The below average *gu *rains will most likely lead to a fourth consecutive poor harvest in July and further livestock losses during the *hagaa *dry season of July to September, prolonging the effects of the drought and further eroding households’ coping capacity. Although the number of people receiving humanitarian food assistance rose to 2.01 million in February from 1.25 million in January, significant funding gaps are expected to limit the distribution of food aid in the coming months.
Pastoralist households continue to report cross-species mass die-offs of livestock and spontaneous abortions of sheep and goats due to poor livestock body conditions, particularly in northern and central Somalia, as well as in Bakool, Gedo and parts of the Hiiraan regions. Although little banter and lambing is underway, the current poor state of farm animal body condition means milk productivity is well below normal. If the *gu *rains are further delayed or perform very poorly, more cattle deaths are expected and many households will weed out new offspring to save the lives of productive females. Overall, household livestock is declining rapidly, and some households in IPC Stage 4 livelihoods have already lost much of their livestock, making their livelihoods unsustainable.
In agropastoral and river-based livelihoods, households no longer have their own stocks of grain from the January harvest and have to buy almost all of their food at the market. In addition to the poor production conditions for livestock, farm households face a loss of income due to low demand for labor and falling wage rates. In the river basins to the south, the drying up of the Juba and Shabelle rivers has halted irrigation activities and the cultivation of most cash crops, although some households will earn a small income from the recessionary off-season sesame harvest currently underway.
Acute water scarcity contributes to increasing cases of diseases such as acute water diarrhea. These factors, combined with low food intake, are leading to a rapid increase in the number of acutely malnourished children admitted to treatment centers, with a two to four fold increase reported in some counties. Communal dams, shallow wells and private *berkeds* are dry in most of southern and central Somalia, with only a few operational boreholes and water trucks offering water for purchase. Some households in southern river basins have dug up the dry riverbeds to collect water. With water prices in northern and central rural markets reaching more than double the five-year average, most poor households can only buy water on credit, further adding to their debt burden.
Although not the most likely scenario, FEWS NET and partners assess that Somalia is at risk of hunger (IPC Phase 5). In an alternate scenario where the good Rainfalls are delayed beyond mid-April and/or cumulative rainfall levels are well below average and if humanitarian food assistance fails to reach populations in need, the resulting loss of crop and livestock production would most likely lead to an increase in the population of the is extremely vulnerable to gaps in food consumption, with associated increases in displacement, acute malnutrition and mortality. Substantial further increases in food prices associated with global supply and price shocks, and the potential for increased conflict and insecurity due to delayed elections are other factors that could interact with sub-average rainfall and exacerbate the severity of acute food insecurity.