About 2.1 million people in Somalia face acute food insecurity through December due to severe drought that has ravaged several parts of the country, the United Nations food agency has said.
According to assessment results by Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), which was managed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 1 million children under the age of five are likely to be acutely malnourished through mid-2020.
"Although the 2019 Deyr/short rains (October-December) are forecast to be average to above-average, the positive impact on food security will not be realized until late 2019," the UN said in its report on 2019 post-Gu seasonal food security and nutrition assessment, conducted across Somalia in June-July.
However, according to the report, which was released in Mogadishu, seasonal production activities will mitigate more severe deterioration during this period.
According to the FSNAU, sustained and large-scale humanitarian assistance, which is planned and likely through September, is preventing more severe outcomes in many areas.
The UN warned that food security is expected to deteriorate in the absence of humanitarian assistance from October to December.
According to the UN, the current high levels of food insecurity are driven by drought conditions from late 2018 through mid-May, exacerbated by below-average and erratically distributed rainfall during the 2019 Gu (main rainy) season (April-June), which began late and finished early.
"Many households are still recovering from the severe 2016/2017 drought or have been affected by conflict, and 2.6 million people remain displaced," the UN said.
The Gu cereal harvest failed in most regions, leaving most poor agropastoral and riverine households unable to meet their minimum food needs, given significantly below-average food stocks and income from seasonal agricultural employment, it said.
"In pastoral areas, the impact of the drought on livestock led to a lack of access to milk, and many poor households have accumulated large debts while struggling to feed their families and rescue their remaining livestock," the report said.
According to the Somalia Food Security Cluster, there has been a significant scale-up of emergency food assistance where 1.2 million to 1.4 million people were reached each month from May to June and 1.9 million people were reached in July.
Planned assistance is expected to continue at similar levels in August and September, the cluster said.