Nairobi — Somalia continues to make progress in its recovery from the 2011 famine, but some 870,000 people - most of them internally displaced persons (IDPs) - are predicted to require food assistance up to December 2013, according to new data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) for Somalia.
Many parts of the country have experienced average to above average rainfall recently, which, coupled with low food prices and humanitarian intervention, has led to the lowest number of people requiring food aid since famine led to the deaths of more than 250,000 people in southern Somalia in July 2011.
However, experts warn that despite slight improvements, certain populations remain extremely vulnerable to food insecurity; some 206,000 children under the age of five are currently experiencing acute malnutrition - Global Acute Malnutrition rates over 15 percent - down from 215,000 in January.
"It took two to three seasons to deteriorate into a famine situation, so while there is no immediate risk of famine, two or three good rainy seasons does not completely remove the risk," Daniel Molla, FSNAU's chief technical adviser, told IRIN. "The recovery is very fragile without good rains, sustained humanitarian intervention and improvements in security."
A 3 September technical release reported that IDPs constitute 72 percent of the 870,000 "people in Crisis and Emergency", according to the UN's Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. "Most of these people live in settlements in very poor living conditions and rely on marginal, unreliable livelihood strategies."
In the capital Mogadishu, where more than one-third of the country's 1.1 million IDPs reside, powerful "gatekeepers" often divert the flow of aid intended for IDPs. In a 3 September blog, Horn of Africa advocate for the NGO Refugees International, cautioned that a planned relocation of the city's IDPs needed to be "deliberate and thoughtful" in order to prevent increasing their vulnerability.
Beyond those in need of urgent support, an estimated 2.3 million Somalis are categorized as "stressed", or struggling to meet their food needs and vulnerable to "food shocks" such as rises in food prices and poor harvests.
FSNAU reported that many households in Mogadishu spend up to 75 percent of their income on food, placing them at risk in the event of poor rainfall and a rise in food prices. A threat by Britain's Barclays Bank to withdraw banking services from more than 250 money-transfer companies could also affect the ability of millions of Somalis who depend on remittances from relatives in the UK to buy food and water.
Presenting the data on 3 September, Nina Dodd, nutrition analysis manager for FSNAU, said the areas of Lower and Middle Shabelle, which together are home to some 18.5 percent of Somalia's 7.5 million people and more than 10 percent of the country's IDPs, are particularly exposed to food insecurity, as they were previously supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which was providing therapeutic feeding but recently pulled out of Somalia, citing high levels of insecurity.
Few humanitarian agencies are able to access populations in need of food, and FSNAU was unable to assess the food security situation there; Dodd warned, however, that "we may soon be warning of emergency levels" in Shabelle if the situation persists.
"The nutrition and health cluster is trying to identify partners on the ground who can take over the activities of MSF," she added.
Visiting Mogadishu in July, John Ging, director of operations for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said Somalia's humanitarian needs were "immense" and called on the international community to invest in the country, where just 33 percent of the US$1.3 billion 2013-2015 humanitarian appeal has been funded.
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. ]