Rome, March 21 (IANS/AKI) Massive numbers of livestock deaths in Somalia due to drought have severely damaged herders’ livelihoods and threaten to exacerbate food scarcity, which remains acute in the central and northern pastoral areas, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.
With forecasts pointing to below-average rains during April-June, urgent support is needed to build the resilience of crisis-hit communities and avert a deterioration in livelihoods and food security, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said in its Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) report.
“Massive livestock losses have severely affected Somalia’s economy and people. It is crucial that we continue to support pastoralist households and build resilience to climate-related shocks by providing timely veterinary and feeding assistance for their animals,” said FAO’s representative in Somalia, Daniele Donati.
In the country’s northern and central pastoral regions, the negative impact of prolonged drought in 2016 and 2017 on livestock in particular, has increased the number of people at severe risk of hunger by an estimated 3 percent to 1.8 million – almost 30 percent of the population of these areas.
Somalia’s overall food security situation improves slightly in early 2018 mainly due to large-scale, sustained humanitarian aid, FAO said. The number of Somalis suffering severe food scarcity fell by an estimated 15 percent from late 2017, but remains 170 percent above pre-crisis levels, according to FAO.
The massive herd losses have led to a reduced market supply and surging prices of livestock and livestock products, such as milk, and plunging animal exports. This is expected to have a severe effect on the Somali economy: the livestock sector accounts for about 40 percent of national income and 65 percent of the population rears livestock.
Families in pastoral areas are already bearing the brunt of the crisis and have high levels of household indebtedness that is severely impacting their access to food. In the northern and central regions, household debts soared 400 percent during 2017, fuelled by purchases of foodstuffs and water on credit and by loans, according to FAO.
FAO said it aims to assist 2.7 million rural Somalis this year and is appealing for $236 million for animal feed, water and health services, to help farmers secure a good harvest and to provide cash transfers to those most in need so families can afford to eat while they restore their food production.