The gradual recovery and gains made since the crisis in in 2011, when four million people experienced extreme food insecurity and famine occurred in some regions of the south, were threatened in the first half of 2016 as a result of the poor performance of the crucial Gu rains.  These started late and ended early in most of the country, leading to below-average cereal production in affected areas.

What are the current issues in Somalia

According to the latest findings from the Food Security and Nutrition Assessment for Somalia (FSNAU) released in September 2016, the number of food insecure Somalis has reached a total of 5 million – approximately 40% of the country’s population.

As of October 2016, the number of people in crisis and emergency stood at 1.1 million, a 19 percent increase over six months.

A further 3.9 million Somalis remain highly vulnerable to major shocks, such as drought or floods.  

An estimated 300,000 children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished, with 50,000 at risk of severe malnutrition. In seven out of 13 settlements for internally displaced people, global acute malnutrition rates are consistently above the emergency threshold of 15 percent.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Somalia

WFP Somalia aims to address basic food needs, strengthen coping mechanisms and support efforts to achieve food security.

In 2016, WFP has been supporting 1.4 million vulnerable people in food insecure areas throughout the country. To address undernutrition in children under 5 years of age, mothers and pregnant women, WFP is providing nutrition assistance as well as targeted communication aimed at promoting behaviour change and tackling the underlying causes of malnutrition.

Programmes range from emergency relief to activities designed to strengthen resilience against future shocks, such as droughts and floods. Relief assistance includes social safety nets and livelihood support projects and can be provided at times when needs are greatest, such as between harvests.

WFP is providing relief interventions through a mix of in-kind and cash-based transfers as appropriate. Where possible, we support communities in creating assets to improve livelihoods, address localised undernutrition and build ability to withstand shocks. WFP is also working with local authorities to provide daily school meals to primary school students and nutrition assistance to malnourished HIV/TB clients.

Our nutrition strategy focuses on treatment of both chronic and acute malnutrition during emergencies, as well as prevention activities. During lean or dry seasons in highly food insecure areas, malnourished mothers and young children who are part of WFP’s supplementary feeding programmes also receive family rations for  as it is likely that other family members are also struggling to meet their daily food requirements.

WFP is using new technology known as SCOPE, which allows near real-time electronic management of its programmes. Following biometric registration, individuals receiving WFP assistance are issued electronic transfer cards (e-cards) to purchase food in vetted local shops or to receive in-kind food assistance.  Fingerprints act as a signature and assistance can only be redeemed by the individuals registered on the card.

Since 2008, WFP has supported the rehabilitation of the maritime infrastructure in Somalia in order to improve the delivery of humanitarian goods. Rehabilitation of Mogadishu port and dredging of Bossaso port by WFP have contributed to increased efficiency by enabling access for larger vessels.  This has also had a positive economic impact for Somalia as trade volumes have increased. Efforts are now focused on raising funds to rehabilitate the southern port of Kismayo, a strategic location that would enable WFP to deliver humanitarian cargo more efficiently in the south, where many areas are difficult to access due to a deterioration in the security situation.

WFP Somalia has joined the country offices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to plan and implement a Joint Strategy on Resilience in Somalia. Through this strategy, the three UN agencies aim to align and sequence their existing activities to maximize success in enabling communities cope with hardship more effectively. The strategy is based on enhancing household access to income; improving the good health, nutrition, education, safety and skills of individuals; and assuring basic household needs by providing 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.

The gradual recovery and gains made since the crisis in in 2011, when four million people experienced extreme food insecurity and famine occurred in some regions of the south, were threatened in the first half of 2016 as a result of the poor performance of the crucial Gu rains.  These started late and ended early in most of the country, leading to below-average cereal production in affected areas