Forecasting Disaster Scenarios Using Existing Data

SEADS Handbook Location: Chapter 4 (book p. 32, PDF p. 39)

The food security and nutritional situation in the Horn of Africa was already precarious prior to the current drought across the region, leaving households extremely vulnerable to food insecurity and with little-to-no coping capacity to manage additional shocks.


Rainfall performance

Due in part to a La Niña occurrence, the performance of the October–December 2021 “short rains/Deyr” rainy season was extremely poor across the region, characterized by a one-month delay in the onset of seasonal rains, poor temporal distribution, and below-average cumulative rainfall, with rainfall less than 55% of the average in the worst-affected areas. This poor rainy season represents the third consecutive below-average rainy season across much of the region. Both the October-to-December 2020 “short rains/Deyr” season and the March-to-May 2021 “long rains/Gu” season were below average. Additionally, in localized areas of southern Somalia, it has been the fourth consecutive below-average rainy season.

Crop conditions

In the major crop-producing areas of southern and central Somalia, the Deyr harvest has largely failed in rainfed agriculture areas, as the poor performance of the rainy season resulted in a below-average planted area, widespread germination failures, and crop wilting. Some crops have been harvested in riverine areas where farmers practice irrigation and flood-recession agriculture. However, the dismal rain performance also reduced river levels and water availability, constraining crop production. Overall, 2021 Deyr cereal production is estimated to be between 58% lower than the long-term average in Somalia and up to about 70% below average in Kenya, leading to a third consecutive season with
below average cereal production.

Conflict in drought-affected areas

Resource-based conflict has intensified in drought-affected areas, driven by the scarcity of and increased competition for rangeland resources, including pasture, browse, and water. Conflict has resulted in the loss of lives, livestock, and other assets. It has driven population displacements and disrupted livelihoods and markets.

Market conditions

In Somalia, in December 2021, prices of sorghum and maize in key producing areas were more than twice those of a year earlier. After four consecutive below-average harvests, the very high cereal prices were close to the levels reached during the 2016–17 drought.

Food security situation

To a large extent, the current situation looks similar to the 2016–2017 drought emergency in East Africa, which was the worst in recent years. For example, in Somalia and Kenya the early warning and early action alerts showed a similar number of indicators in the alarm phase in December 2021 as in December 2016. Based on currently available information, FSNWG estimates that between 12 and 14 million people in northern Kenya, Somalia, and southern Ethiopia will likely face high levels of food insecurity (in line with IPC Phase 3+).


The nutrition situation in the Horn of Africa continues to deteriorate, with increasing food insecurity and drought conditions in northern Kenya, Somalia, and southern Ethiopia. The key drivers of the increased levels of malnutrition include high levels of food insecurity, water shortages, disease outbreaks, the COVID- 19 pandemic, high food prices, and low household purchasing power. A total of 5.7 million children are anticipated to be wasted in 2022, out of whom 1.7 million will require treatment for severe wasting in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.


The eastern Horn of Africa has a bimodal rainfall regime, consisting of a first rainy season from March to May and a second rainy season from October to December. Beyond the current January–February dry season, the food security outlook across the Horn of Africa will be heavily dependent on the performance of the March-to-May “long rains/Gu” rainy season. Unfortunately, this season is notoriously difficult to forecast, with global models currently showing mixed signals and high levels of uncertainty for most of the region. More specifically, while some models are indicating an increased likelihood of average-to-above-average rains, others (based on analyses of Pacific March–May sea surface temperatures, past droughts, and previous La Niña years) suggest the possibility of another below-average season.

Given this considerable uncertainty about upcoming rainfall performance, FSNWG has decided that it is not possible to develop a “most likely scenario” at this time. Instead, FSNWG has agreed to develop two separate food security projections for the Horn of Africa, based on different rainfall scenarios:

  1. Scenario assumes that the March-to-May rains will be average to above average: As the effects of drought continue over the near future, affected households will be forced to rely on negative coping strategies, while still facing significant crop and livestock losses, reduced market access, and high disease incidence. Riverine communities will also be affected. Household food access is likely to be extremely constrained due to reduced household income from crop and livestock sales, as well as from agricultural labor, amid above-average staple food prices.
  2. Scenario assumes that the March-to-May rains will be below average: Severe food insecurity is expected in addition to an increase in excess livestock deaths, significantly below average-to-failed June/July harvests, and steeper declines in household purchasing power, compounded by increased levels of resource-based conflict and insecurity.


Given the current severe drought and threat that a fourth consecutive below-average rainy season could possibly occur, large-scale emergency food, nutrition, livelihood, and non food interventions are critical in order to mitigate the increase in severe food and nutrition insecurity and outcomes. More specifically, the following actions are recommended:

  • Food security and livelihoods: In the immediate short term, there is an urgent need to provide immediate food access. It’s also paramount to safeguard the livelihoods of farmers, pastoralists, and agro-pastoralists, and support the quick recovery of their seasonal food production and self-reliance. Particular emphasis should also be placed on investments in local climate adaptation to restore livelihoods and support drought-prone communities to anticipate, manage, reduce, and adapt to climate-related risks.
  • Nutrition: Rapid scale-up of lifesaving health and nutrition interventions is needed. Continued investment is required to strengthen nutrition information systems to allow for evidence- informed planning and response monitoring.
  • Conflict management: Provide support to existing community-based coordination mechanisms to strengthen natural resource conflict management. It is important that emergency drought response interventions also mainstream conflict sensitivity into their approaches.
  • Food security monitoring: Given the high level of uncertainty about weather forecasts, continuous monitoring of the situation is needed across the drought-affected areas of all three countries.

Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG) 2022. Special report: Multi-season drought drives dire food security situation. FSNWG. https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/special-report-multi-season-drought-drives-dire-food-security-situation.