At the start of 2012, famine conditions were still present in Somalia. On 3 February, the famine was declared over, largely due to the delivery of aid under extremely difficult conditions and an exceptional harvest at the start of the year. Humanitarian actors built on these gains throughout the year by continuing to provide life-saving assistance and implementing programmes to strengthen people’s coping mechanisms.
At the height of the famine, about 4 million people–over half of Somalia’s estimated population–required humanitarian aid. The number of people who cannot meet their basic needs without assistance was reduced by half to 1 million between August 2012 and January 2013. Despite these gains, the situation remains fragile. In addition to 1 million people in crisis, a further 1.7 million people who emerged from crisis in the past year are at risk of falling back without continued support to build up their livelihoods.
Malnutrition rates in Somalia have also improved, but are still among the highest in the world. An estimated 215,000 children under age 5 are acutely malnourished (14 per cent of all children under age 5), of whom 45,000 are severely malnourished.
Due to the protracted nature of the crisis and ongoing insecurity, an estimated 1.1 million Somalis are internally displaced, often living in sub-standard conditions. Another 1 million Somalis are refugees in neighbouring countries.
Many parts of Somalia are plagued by insecurity. The withdrawal of Al Shabaab from key towns in southern Somalia during the year permitted a gradual increase in international presence in some areas, which enabled aid groups to bring in more relief supplies and better monitor projects. However, the security risk in these areas remains high, as power vacuums often exist at least temporarily and Al Shabaab shifted tactics towards asymmetric warfare. Programmes that were previously in place have been disrupted during and after military operations. Somalia remains one of the most dangerous operating environments, with nine humanitarian workers killed in 2012, including a UN staff member in August. Clan and intra-clan fighting, often over land and access to water and pasture, are also common features disrupting people’s lives and livelihoods.
Humanitarian access remained extremely challenging in parts of central and southern Somalia, but continued to improve gradually in the last quarter of 2012. This made it possible to reach the most vulnerable people in locations such as Afmadow, Baidoa, Kismayo, Marka and Xudur. However, insecurity remains a key impediment to reaching people in need and for affected people to reach humanitarian assistance.
Persisting conflict continues to lead to temporary and long-term displacement, while seasonal flash floods resulted in temporary displacement in Hiraan (central), Somaliland and Puntland in September and October.
In anticipation of flooding in Belet Weyne, central Somalia, OCHA set up a response-coordination structure in late September, while partners pre-positioned water, chlorine and aqua tabs. When massive flooding hit on 27 and 28 September, OCHA led a rapid needs assessment to determine the type and extent of needs, and it played an instrumental role in ensuring that thousands of flood-displaced people were assisted. OCHA also worked closely with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to enhance the monitoring of aid delivery. It ensured FGS was regularly briefed on the ongoing response to avoid the duplication of efforts—. OCHA coordinated similar responses in other riverine communities affected by flooding later in the year.
By continuing to employ innovative strategies adopted during the 2011-2012 famine, humanitarian actors were able to overcome significant operational and security constraints to deliver in areas inaccessible to the UN, including through the use of food vouchers and partnerships with local NGOs. Where possible, humanitarian actors provided life-saving assistance to affected people in their places of origin to minimize death and displacement.
OCHA Somalia’s key focus in 2012 was to mobilize and coordinate an effective and principled inter-agency humanitarian response. During the drought and famine, the humanitarian system focused mostly on saving lives. However, efforts to enhance household resilience to shocks, such as drought and flooding, are required to break the cycle of recurring crisis. For the first time, the Somalia CAP, launched in December 2012, covers a three-year period. The 2013-2015 appeal, which focuses on life-saving assistance and activities to strengthen livelihoods and communities’ resilience to shock, brings together 177 NGOs and UN agencies in 368 project proposals. Operational planning around resilience progressed, with UN agencies aligning their programmes and operations in Burco (Togdheer), Doolow (Gedo), Iskushuban (Bari) and Owdweyne (Togdheer). The good rains and sustained seasonal assistance have contributed to a reduction in the number of people in crisis in Puntland and Somaliland. An ongoing focus in those areas is to strengthen disaster-risk reduction and preparedness for predictable crises, such as seasonal drought and flooding, with local authorities.
Over the past three years, coordination of humanitarian activities in southern and central Somalia was extremely challenging. International staff were unable to travel to many areas and key towns for security reasons, while national staff have at times had to leave areas of responsibility for the same reasons. As a result, most coordination was conducted remotely, either through Nairobi or through major towns in Somalia. In 2012, OCHA strengthened its presence by reinforcing the coordination hub in Mogadishu with the Head of the Country Office and other international staff. Presence was also increased with the re-opening of coordination hubs in Baidoa, Dobley and Doolow.
Over the next year, OCHA Somalia intends to gradually move the bulk of its presence into Somalia. This will include the immediate bolstering of the Mogadishu sub-office to accommodate a shift in the centre of gravity of humanitarian operations from Nairobi to Mogadishu. OCHA will continue to work on key functions in these areas to support the establishment of clusters; manage the Inter-Cluster Working Group; provide overall coordination; and develop information management products in support of response efforts.
Appointed in August, the internationally recognized FGS signaled a commitment to humanitarian issues by participating in the CAP launch, which was held in Somalia for the first time. The President, who was selected in September, outlined his vision for the country in a six-pillar plan, which would provide basic services in all districts. However, the capacity of the FGS to deliver on this vision remains to be seen. Large swathes of Somalia remain outside its control and unreceptive to its authority. The FGS’s ability to neutralize “spoilers” will vary from case to case, while security will remain its top priority.