2 Mar 2023

Acting early to support pastoralists affected by drought in Somalia

The Danish Refugee Council recently activated an anticipatory action mechanism to help pastoralists in Puntland, Somalia, cope with the predicted impacts of drought. In the coming months, three communities will receive assistance with maintaining water resources, and the most vulnerable households will also receive cash. These actions aim to minimize livelihood losses and the resulting displacement of communities.

At the end of February 2023, the Danish Refugee Council’s drought-displacement simulation model indicated that significant displacement was likely to occur in May and June 2023. The model uses seasonal rainfall forecasts and market price data, which are combined with field-level monitoring data such as access to water and pasture. Together, these sources suggested that pastoralist communities in Puntland had already run out of water and were starting to use negative coping strategies, such as taking on debt, borrowing water (to be paid back later) and, in some cases, exchanging livestock for water. Anticipatory actions were therefore triggered ahead of the peak impact period to reduce the need for people to adopt these negative coping strategies, or even more severe strategies.

The added value of acting ahead of peak drought

Funding came from the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) as part of a 24-month project to develop and refine a drought-displacement simulation model for Somalia and the Sahel. The project, which began in March 2022, is testing and documenting the added value of anticipatory action ahead of the worst impacts of a drought.

Through this project, the Danish Refugee Council set up early-action committees in three pastoral communities, each with about 600 households, near Galkayo, a city in the Mudug region of Puntland. Each committee developed contingency plans for drought and validated the mechanisms to trigger these. Together with staff from the Danish Refugee Council, they have been monitoring conditions on the ground (e.g., access to water and pasture) for the past three months and feeding this information into the drought-displacement simulation model.

“There is a short window of opportunity to act now, if we are to avoid significant displacement due to expected failure of the upcoming rainy seasons,” explained Alexander Kjærum from the Danish Refugee Council. “Communities are already running out of water and taking on debt; if the rains fail, they will no longer have the means to cope and will have to move in search of water and support.”

“We hope, with this pilot, to show the benefits of acting early ahead of drought to ease humanitarian needs and suffering. This will inform our wider work on scaling up anticipatory action in response to both conflict- and drought-induced displacement, in east Africa and beyond.”

Alexander Kjærum Global advisor and senior analyst, Danish Refugee Council

This article is based on a news item by the Danish Refugee Council. Thanks to Alexander Kjærum for his help.

Photos © Danish Refugee Council