Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
Somalia’s prolonged humanitarian crisis is characterized by ongoing conflicts, climate shocks including floods and drought, communicable disease outbreaks and weak social protection. Since the beginning of 2020, two additional shocks have contributed to a deterioration of humanitarian conditions: the desert locust infestation and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flooding displaced 840,000 people in the first 10 months of 2020 and destroyed infrastructure, property, and 144,000 hectares of agricultural land. Somalia also experienced the worst desert locust invasion in 25 years; tens of thousands of hectares of cropland and pasture were damaged, with potentially severe consequences for agriculture and pastoral-based livelihoods.
Communities living in conflict areas were severely impacted by armed violence. Civilians bore the brunt through death and injury, property destruction, taxation of communities (including through forced child recruitment), land grabbing, destruction of livelihoods, limited freedom of movement, and limited access to services and humanitarian assistance.
COVID-19 directly impacted the lives of Somalis, worsening patterns of vulnerability. This came on top of ongoing disease outbreaks such as cholera, measles and, recently, vaccine-derived poliovirus. Health-care providers have faced increased burdens and costs, forced to alter the way care is provided. Restrictions also disrupted the face-to-face delivery of humanitarian assistance, impacting assessments, targeting and the quality of the response. However, partners successfully scaled up mobile money transfers and transitioned to assessments via mobile phones.
The number of people in need has consistently increased over the last three years, from 4.2 million in 2019 to 5.2 million in 2020 and 5.9 million in 2021. This is further reflected in the number of displaced people in 2020: 1.2 million. This is the highest number over the past three years, with 884,000 in 2018 and 770,000 in 2019. Other factors, such as gender, age and disability, add to the level of vulnerability, risks and barriers faced. As such, they need to be considered in the humanitarian response.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
Based on the risk analysis, it is highly likely that climate shocks will continue to affect the most vulnerable people in Somalia in 2021. Drought conditions are expected in early 2021 as La Niña is likely to cause decreased rainfall in the Deyr rainy season (October-December), affecting crop production. Given the fragility of food security in the country, this will likely have a devastating impact well beyond the beginning of 2021. Further, despite ongoing control measures, there is a high likelihood that conditions will remain favorable for locusts to continue breeding and developing, increasing food insecurity and the effects on livelihoods.
Recent climate events show that even during drought conditions, heavy and localized rains are likely to cause damage and displacement. Flooding is expected to occur again during the 2021 Gu rainy season (April-June). However, it may not be as severe as in 2020. The number of people affected by flooding has increased significantly in recent years, with 840,000 displaced in 2020, 416,000 in 2019 and 281,000 in 2018.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with other communicable diseases and an ongoing outbreak of cholera, will continue to affect the most vulnerable Somalis and strain the already weak health system. According to a WHO global estimate, 20 per cent of Somalia’s population will suffer from the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic in 2021.
Armed conflict and insecurity are expected to continue to drive needs and cause displacement while simultaneously impeding effective humanitarian operations and access to vulnerable or marginalized communities. Due to the security situation in Yemen and sporadic instabilities in Ethiopia, it is expected that Somalia will continue to receive refugees and asylum seekers. Over 28,000 refugees and asylum seekers are projected to require assistance and support in 2021.
Response priorities in 2021
Despite operational and access challenges, humanitarian partners reached over 2.3 million people out of 3 million targeted in 2020. For 2021, humanitarian partners anticipate an increase in the number of people in need, driven by climate shocks, conflict and increased vulnerability. The aim, therefore, is to assist 4 million people, including IDPs, refugees and returnees, with access to basic services and livelihoods support, while providing life-saving food assistance to 3.1 million IDPs and non-IDPs in crisis and emergency phases of food insecurity.
A key response priority is to ensure that 2.8 million people receive critical, life-saving assistance so their health, nutrition and short-term capacity to survive are not compromised. Children under 5 years of age, vulnerable women and persons with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in IDP and non-IDP populations.
The lack of protection from violence, abuse and neglect remains an important consequence of the current humanitarian crisis for up to 4 million people. The centrality of protection is therefore a key priority across the humanitarian response, including strengthening the overall protection environment for all affected populations via protection mainstreaming, accountability to affected populations, human rights and eviction monitoring.