UN OCHA Anticipatory Action: Lessons from the 2020 Somalia Pilot

This working paper examines lessons learned from the anticipatory action pilot in Somalia, designed in 2019 and triggered in June 2020 to release US dollars 15 million in funds to address projected food insecurity. Lessons on the process were established using a desk review of documents, real-time observation of coordination meetings, and conducting 24 interviews, including with informants from OCHA headquarters (6), global partner agencies and external organizations (5), and OCHA colleagues in Somalia, the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group, and partner UN agencies including FAO, UNICEF, UNHCR, and WHO (13). Learnings include that the framework did not include a drought specific trigger, which led to ambiguity when the food security-based trigger was reached due to the triple threat of Covid-19, locusts, and flooding. Activating the Anticipatory Action plan in response to threats other than drought also led to implementation challenges, including frustration and little flexibility in a process initially designed for drought, again underscoring the importance of disaster specific triggers. This study also found that partnership with the World Bank created opportunities for greater funding but came with challenges, including differences in institutional cultures, indicator choices, risk tolerance, and readiness for forecast-based action. Recommendations issued by the report include establishing a peer review process for anticipatory action plans; setting detailed protocols for monitoring the trigger and carrying out step-by-step actions once reached; clarifying decision-making processes during the design phase; developing an intentional approach to support mindset change among key stakeholders; and recognizing and responding to how different people cope with systems change.

Publish Date

October 31, 2021

Resource Type

PDF, 381.10 KB


Emilie Gettliffe







Content Type

Academic papers


Food Insecurity




Disease outbreak, Flood, Insect infestation