What are the current issues in Somalia

The situation in Somalia has improved since the crisis of 2011, when four million people experienced extreme food insecurity and famine occurred in some regions of the south.

However, the gradual recovery and gains made are being threatened as below average rains, conflict and trade disruptions combined with limited humanitarian access and resources have left thousands of people in need of lifesaving food and nutrition assistance.

The number of people in Crisis and Emergency now stands at 855,000, a 17 percent increase from the beginning of the year, according to the latest findings from the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU). People belonging to these households require urgent lifesaving humanitarian assistance to help meet immediate food needs, including critical nutrition and health support for those acutely malnourished, particularly children.

A further 2.3 million additional people are classified as “stressed”, meaning they are struggling to meet their minimum daily food needs. Households belonging to this group remain highly vulnerable to major shocks, such as drought or floods, which could easily push them back into food security crisis.

As a result, lifesaving humanitarian assistance and livelihood support remain vitally important throughout 2015 to help food insecure populations meet their immediate food needs, protect livelihoods and build resilience.

An estimated 214,700 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. Without urgent and sustained nutrition interventions, the number of malnourished children is estimated to increase by more than 50 percent by the end of the year. A nutrition emergency is unfolding amongst displaced communities in Dolow and Dhobley with critical levels of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate exceeding the 15 per cent emergency threshold being reported.  

Insecurity, conflict and high food prices continue to contribute to poor household food security and high malnutrition rates. Any gains made in food security and nutrition could be lost without continued humanitarian assistance as the situation is fragile, with communities recovering from many seasons of failed rains and subsequent drought.

WFP continues to focus on nutrition programmes that support the most vulnerable members of the population, namely women and children. Through supplementary feeding programmes WFP provides specialised nutritional food products to treat and prevent malnutrition. At times of greater need, during lean or dry seasons, a family ration is included as there is a likelihood of other family members also being malnourished.

While continuing to provide targeted emergency or relief assistance when needed, WFP’s 2015 programmes aim to help some 1.9 million people cope more effectively with hardships that might affect themselves and their communities. These are aimed at providing responses that help to enhance the resilience of an individual or community by increasing household income, providing basic services and establishing predictable "safety nets" to address basic needs.

To assist communities and strengthen their resilience to shocks, WFP is funding community asset-building programmes that include the construction of reservoirs, wells and roads that make it easier to reach the markets.

WFP is also expanding its school meals programme, which provides school-going children with a cooked meal each day during the school term. School meals are recognized as one of the most important and dependable safety nets for children and their families and are a powerful incentive for families to continue to invest in education, despite their livelihoods being under stress.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Somalia

WFP Somalia aims to address basic food needs, strengthen coping mechanisms and support the efforts to achieve food security of vulnerable Somalis so they can cope more effectively with hardships.

WFP’s programmes range from relief, which is provided during emergencies, to activities designed to strengthen the resilience of households against future shocks, such as droughts and floods. We are using a targeted approach to relief assistance for people and communities in crisis, including social safety nets and livelihood support projects, some of which are provided on a seasonal basis when needs are greatest, such as between harvests.

WFP is also concentrating on nutritional programming. The nutrition strategy in Somalia focuses on treatment of both chronic and acute malnutrition during the current emergency, as well as implementing activities that concentrate on preventing people from becoming malnourished. During lean or dry seasons in highly food insecure areas, WFP will provide family rations to malnourished mothers and young children who are part of our supplementary feeding programmes, as there is the likelihood that other family members are struggling to meet their daily food requirements and may be malnourished.

WFP has also introduced new technology known as SCOPE which allows near real-time electronic management of WFP’s programmes in Somalia. Following biometric registration, individuals receiving WFP assistance are issued with electronic transfer cards (e-cards) to purchase food in locations where food is available in the markets, or to receive in-kind food assistance. The fingerprints acts as a signature and can only be redeemed by those who are registered on the card.

The World Food Programme Somalia has joined the respective country offices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) to plan and implement a Joint Strategy on Resilience in Somalia. Through this Joint Strategy, the three UN agencies will align and sequence their existing programme activities so the combined results can achieve greater success in enabling communities cope with hardship more effectively. The strategy’s three building blocks are based on enhancing household access to income; enhancing individual’s good health, nutrition, education, safety and skills; and assuring basic household needs by providing predictable assistance in times of need.

  • Mother and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) Programme

MCHN aims to prevent both acute and chronic malnutrition (wasting and stunting) in children under the age of two years. This approach focuses on the first 1,000 days of life (from conception to age two) because this is the window of opportunity for preventing irreversible damages to a child’s growth and mental development due to poor nutrition. Pregnant and nursing women are therefore also targeted to ensure a good start in life for their offspring. The beneficiaries, irrespective of their nutritional status, receive daily supplements of fortified blended food to complement a generally poor diet. In Somalia, the programme is implemented through functional Maternal & Child Health clinics to ensure that beneficiaries receive nutritional support as well as health interventions necessary for healthy growth: immunisation, de-worming, treatment of diarrhoea and other common illnesses, ante-natal and post-natal medical check-ups, etc. Pregnant or nursing women can stay in the programme until delivery and/or when the child reaches six months, while children can remain in the programme until they reach 24 months of age.

  • Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme (TSFP)

This programme aims to treat mild-to-moderate acute malnutrition (wasting) in children below five years of age, as well as pregnant and nursing women, and to prevent them from sliding further into severe wasting. Malnourishment among children and women is diagnosed on the basis of body measurements (weight, height, mid-upper arm circumference) using internationally recognised thresholds. Once in the programme, children and mothers receive a daily supplement of energy- and nutrient-dense specialised food (e.g. improved, fortified blended foods or ready-to-use supplementary food) to complement their diet, help them regain weight and have their micronutrient stores replenished. To ensure the food supplement goes to the malnourished child/mother during lean or dry seasons, WFP provides a monthly family ration composed of cereal, pulses and vegetable oil for the other family members. The duration of treatment usually ranges between two and three months.

  • Blanket Supplementary Feeding Programme (BSFP)

WFP has adopted an approach of seasonal nutritional assistance to internally displaced (IDP) communities in the north and central regions that experience lean periods. Blanket Supplementary Feeding is being provided between harvests when the traditional foods of milk and meat are in short supply. BSFP is also being used to target IDP communities that have extremely high Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates. Through this programme, all children under the age of three receive nutrient-dense, ready-to-use supplementary food to assure their continued health and growth. At times of acute need, children under the age of five and pregnant and nursing mothers may also receive nutrition products under BSFP.

  • School Meals

To relieve hunger and encourage continued enrolment in primary school, WFP provides cooked school meals to children. In Somaliland, Puntland and Central regions, we particularly encourage the attendance of girls, providing them with a take-home family ration of vegetable oil. School meals are a vital social safety net for vulnerable households, especially in times of crisis.

  • Vocational Training

Through Food for Assets (FFA) WFP provides food rations to support self-help initiatives that restore infrastructure and the natural environment, as well as create new assets. The improvements enable communities to recover from past shocks, such as drought, and will increase their ability to cope more effectively during disaster without having to resort to harmful strategies such as selling assets and livestock. Activities can include creating or repairing water catchments, dams, shallow wells, feeder roads to markets, irrigation canals and using soil and water conservation measures to fight soil erosion and restore degraded land. WFP’s interventions are tailored to local livelihood systems and specific activities are selected by each community according to their own needs.

FFA projects are sometimes implemented in times of emergency in lieu of relief activities. Activities may include repairs to community feeder roads, de-silting of water catchments, collection of rubbish and clearing of invasive species.

Food for Training (FFT) is a project that WFP implements which provides households with new livelihood skills to start their own businesses or seek skilled employment. The projects targets primarily urban populations, especially women. WFP provides food rations as incentives for community members to participate in training that teaches practical vocational skills, such as literacy or tailoring.


  • Institutional Feeding

Institutional feeding provides monthly food rations to TB and HIV/AIDS clients and their families through treatment centres. This ensures a more balanced nutritional intake and improved health during the period of treatment, thereby increasing the efficiency of the medication.

Rapid Emergency Response

In places like Somalia, people affected by conflict or natural disaster can lose everything they own in minutes. Some are struck by repeated crises, with each one pushing them deeper into hunger and poverty. Being prepared for such emergencies is a top priority for WFP.

By taking early action based on early warnings, WFP mitigates the impact of potential disaster, saving lives and livelihoods. During the early onset of an emergency, there may be a need to provide specialised food, such as High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) to communities in transit, or targeted general food distributions to those parts of the population directly affected by a shock. These are initial response to crises ahead of other targeted initiatives.

  • United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)

WFP continues to manage UNHAS on behalf of the humanitarian community. UNHAS facilitates the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance and the movement of aid workers to and within Somalia by providing critical and safe air services in Somalia. UNHAS has medical and security evacuation permanently available for the re-location of staff and can airlift essential relief cargoes, such as medical supplies, to locations inaccessible by road. In 2014 UNHAS operated five passengers aircraft and one cargo flight and transported more than 27,000 passengers.

Featured Somalia publications

  • Somalia: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 382 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

Looking for more publications on Somalia? Visit the Somalia publications archive.