NAIROBI, KENYA - In Somalia, low rainfall for a fifth consecutive growing season has aid agencies sounding the alert. More than a third of the population is in need of food assistance, and that number could grow in coming months.
Below average rainfall in Somalia has aid agencies concerned about this year's harvest, expected to begin in April.
But aid officials say the situation has not reached the level it did at the same time last year, when the United Nations warned of a potential famine.
U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Peter de Clercq updated reporters Monday in Mogadishu.
“I am very pleased to report and to announce that the risk of famine has declined through collective action. We can be very proud of that achievement, but we cannot be complacent. This is not ‘mission accomplished’ moment. The humanitarian situation remains critical, and these gains are fragile and could easily be reversed without sustained assistance. The impact of drought and conflict continues to cause suffering and drive people from their homes,” he said.
Food production is expected to be below normal again this year in most of Somalia, according to a recent survey by Somalia’s Food Security and Analysis Unit, a project managed by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Without continued large-scale assistance, the agency says food security is expected to deteriorate in the next five months.
Sergio Innocente works with the Food and Agriculture Organization.
“Close to half of the population of Somalia that is in anywhere between stress and emergency conditions. So we have 4.4 million people in need of support, out of which close to three million people are close to a humanitarian disaster,” said Innocente.
The survey shows 300,000 children are in need of food aid, including 48,000 who are severely malnourished.
Innocente said the report is a call to action.
“We have seen the response of last year has been timely and has been up to scale, so which proves that reality. Even though we are not calling this [an] early warning, we are absolutely convinced a continuous update helps people in making informed decisions, and this is what we want for Somalia,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Somali government is expected to launch its humanitarian response and action plan for 2018.