The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in partnership with government and other implementing partners, has reached almost 11 million livestock belonging to around 275 000 rural families with supportive emergency treatment services in Somalia. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development and the Qatar Fund For Development, the milestone comes at a time when the country faces a humanitarian emergency due to extreme drought. Over 750 000 people have fled their homes in search of assistance, and rural communities have been the hardest hit as water and pasture dried up and livestock perished. Implemented through local government partners, the campaign targeted drought-affected households, with the goal to maintain productive assets that are critical for the food security and nutrition of vulnerable families, especially those with young children.
As of February 2022, FAO’s Food Security Nutrition and Analysis Unit (FSNAU) estimated that some rural households in the most drought affected areas had lost up to 30 percent of their animals to drought. “We’ve seen drought-related livestock disease in pastoral areas, and this directly impacts their ability to cope with these climate shocks,” said FAO’s Livestock Coordinator, Khalid Saeed. “We scaled up quickly through local government partners to achieve this goal, with a sense of urgency that lives and livelihoods were on the line,” he said. The treatments administered are intended to protect livestock from common drought-related diseases that can be lethal to an animal already weakened by drought.
Livestock a lifeline for young children
Livestock are not just a financial commodity for rural Somali families but are essential for human health. Young children rely on milk and meat supply from the family’s herd for their nutrition and development. Households that experience livestock death due to drought see a rapid decline in food security and nutrition, endangering the health and nutrition of their young children. “The nutrition and health of young Somali children are directly linked to the health of their animals and the ecosystems they live in,” said FAO Nutrition Officer, Emma Ouma. “Healthy livestock provide high biological value proteins, vitamins and minerals from the milk and meat they produce. Livestock are a lifeline for young children. Without these critical nutritional benefits the negative impacts in their growth and development can last for years,” she said.
In Somalia, around 1.4 million children are malnourished, with around 330 000 children severely acutely malnourished, according to FSNAU. For families that lose their livestock, their children risk acute malnutrition or even worse outcomes if they don’t receive help soon enough.
As well as supporting animal health, FAO is bringing emergency cash and livelihood assistance to rural areas, as closely as possible to affected communities. This helps to keep families and communities together during crisis, reducing psychosocial and physical risks to the vulnerable, paving the way for a faster and more sustainable recovery.
FAO in Somalia urgently requires USD 131.4 million to increase immediate food access in rural areas, safeguarding livelihoods, and support seasonal food production, and to provide supporting evidence and coordination of drought response actions. “The risk of famine is growing every day, but with an urgent injection of humanitarian funding from the international community there is still time to avert a catastrophe,” said Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO’s Representative in Somalia. FAO aims to assist 882 000 people across 52 districts targeting the worst drought-affected rural communities.