Skip to Main Navigation
Results Briefs November 11, 2019

Preventing Famine in Somalia by Supporting Sustainable and Resilient Drought Recovery

In response to Somalia’s third and devastating drought in two decades, and to contribute towards the international community’s efforts to avert possible famine in 2017, the World Bank rapidly prepared the $50 million Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project in just five weeks to quickly respond to the deterioration of livelihoods in Somalia. The project was implemented in a little over a year, and greatly exceeded its intended results targets as well as provided an innovative solution to support countries in arrears and not eligible for regular International Development Association (IDA) funding.


Somalia was on the brink of famine in 2017. Sequential seasons of reduced rainfall, low harvests, and dying livestock exposed the country to famine from drought, compounding decades of climatic shocks and conflict. In 2016, drought had left 40% of Somalia’s population food insecure and on the brink of famine. By 2017, acute hunger had struck 6.3 million people across the country, contributing to widespread displacement and a health crisis. Climate change and increasing disaster risks further jeopardized lives, livelihoods, and Somalia’s already underdeveloped economy. Completed in January 2018, the Drought Impact Needs Assessment found that there had been over three billion dollars in damages or losses due to the drought. Multi-sectoral recovery and resilience building needs were estimated at nearly $1.8 billion.

The impact of the drought and resulting crisis overwhelmed national response capacities in Somalia.  In addition, the Government of Somalia was in arrears and cut off from a critical source of development financing.  In response to the humanitarian crisis from the drought, the President of Somalia declared a “national disaster” in February 2017.


Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project (SEDRP) ($50 million IDA Crisis Response Window (CRW) grant) brought together a new multi-sector and multi-phased programmatic intervention to the Somalia drought response. It addressed existing gaps and needs in early recovery, while maximizing the Bank’s comparative advantage and value addition by making resilience-building a key underpinning of the interventions financed.

Given its non-accrual status at the time of preparation, Somalia was not eligible for IDA financing. Under these circumstances, the Bank pursued alternative partnership arrangements through the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), representing the first time the Bank provided IDA funding directly to them. The project design was based on ICRC and FAO’s ongoing programs but also additionally incorporated elements of sustainable recovery and resilience building through its innovative design and implementation arrangements, leveraging their existing on-the-ground capacities and access to hard-to-reach areas.

The immediate phase entailed life-saving support through food security and provision of emergency livelihoods to improve coping mechanisms, while the latter phase entailed investments in more sustainable recovery interventions such as boosting agro-pastoral production and water resource management.

The project sought to build upon the Bank’s experience on the usefulness of employing multi-sectoral disaster recovery approaches, that maximizes the spatial coverage of such interventions, compared to isolated, single-sector responses. Its design provided an integrated, holistic and sustainable solution by combining interventions across food security, agriculture, livelihoods, irrigation, water resource management and disaster risk management sectors.


During project implementation (May 2017 to December 2018), the Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project (SEDRP) helped avert the risk of famine—as evidenced by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) ratings improving from levels three and four  (corresponding to acute food and livelihood crisis, and humanitarian emergency), to levels one and two (corresponding to generally food secure and borderline food insecure) across regions being targeted by the project—and supported the livelihoods of the Somali population through interventions which included, most notably:

  • Improving food access to 767,000 Somalis (of which, 42% consisted of women), and improving water access to 777,000 Somalis;
  • Providing 9,500 Somali households with essential household item kits and 31,000 pregnant/lactating women and children under the age of five with basic nutrition services;
  • Vaccinating and/or treating 8.9 million animals across 223,000 Somali households, and providing nutrition support to 24,000 animals;
  • 31,000 pregnant/lactating women and children under the age of five with basic nutrition services; and
  • Distributing seeds for planting, rented tractors to till farmland and cash to meet basic requirements of the Somali population in exchange for work performed.

With a view to increase the population’s resilience against future natural disasters, the project also financed:

  • A cash-for-work program through FAO that engaged some 13,100 Somalis and which rehabilitated 87 public structures, including water catchments, irrigation canals and soil bunds; and
  • The rehabilitation of 33 water infrastructures through ICRC.          

SEDRP achieved several key outcomes. ICRC’s monitoring findings revealed that 84% of the total number of assisted households i.e. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and residents were able to consume at least two meals per day after receiving ICRC assistance against 28% based on the combined findings of the emergency needs assessments. Moreover, the FAO reported that 75% of Somalis targeted by the program benefitted from increased income based on their livelihood activities. These improvements stemmed in part from improved outcomes for agro-pastoralist activities. The FAO reported improved crop yields for sorghum (1.03 tons/ha for beneficiaries against 0.65 tons/ha for non-beneficiaries), maize (1.09 tons/ha against 0.6 tons/ha) and cowpeas (0.68 tons/ha against 0.60 tons/ha). ICRC reported a significant reduction in livestock mortality, which dropped from a peak of 75% for some livestock keepers to less than 10% after the treatments.

Finally, the FAO carried out Disaster Risk Reduction Mainstreaming and early warning trainings in Somalia to provide vulnerable communities with opportunities to develop their skills, knowledge and behaviors in response to natural disaster events. The trainings enabled participants to put in place contingency plans in the event of future floods and droughts in their regions, which are to be expected given the frequency of extreme weather event linked to climate change. At the end of the trainings, the participants were able to apply the acquired skills at a local level, thereby reducing potential risks.

IDA Box on results

Some sector/country briefs might have some results linked to IDA and others to IBRD activities, please highlight IDA results separately below.

The aforementioned results are all attributable to IDA financing.

Bank Group Contribution

In addition to contributing $50 million of funding from the IDA CRW for SEDRP, the Bank has been working on securing trust fund resources in order to advance complementary activities through the Recovery and Resilience Framework (RRF).

During project preparation of SEDRP, it was envisaged that additional trust fund resources would be raised, to make use of the Bank’s convening power to provide technical assistance on developing and operationalizing a drought recovery and resilience building framework.

Building on the strategic engagement opportunities provided by the project, a Drought Impact Needs Assessment (DINA) was conducted by the Somali Government, the World Bank, the European Union, and the United Nations (UN). This was launched in January 2018 and included the first ever comprehensive damages, losses, and needs assessment in the country.

Translating the DINA findings into action, the government has developed a Resilience and Recovery Framework (RRF), with support from the Bank and other partners. Over a three to five-year timeframe, the RRF will support Somalia’s progress from early drought recovery through longer term resilience and disaster preparedness. It establishes a collective vision and strategy for enabling recovery and resilience building and breaking out of the cycle of vulnerability and humanitarian crises. Using evidence-based analysis and a bottom-up consensus building methodology, it identifies recovery and resilience building priorities and proposes a financing approach and institutional arrangements by which these can be acted on by the government and its partners.


Through SEDRP’s innovative engagement of supporting drought recovery and resilience-building, and in the context of Somalia’s IDA non-accrual status, the project was designed to leverage path-breaking partnerships with the ICRC and FAO. It agreed to quickly scale up and fund FAO and ICRC’s ongoing drought operations and longer-term resilience-building, as both had considerable unmet funding gaps in their present drought responses in Somalia.

The importance of leveraging this partnership and providing an immediate flow of funds was necessary to sustain existing momentum and scale up ongoing activities without causing interruption to the drought response and recovery programs of both agencies.

While the Bank has Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) in place with such partners for “normal” operating conditions, these are not always applicable to emergency/fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) settings. This demonstrates the ability of the Bank to work directly, quickly, effectively, and in compliance with Bank standards through such partners, using the various flexibilities deployed under the project despite organizational differences. This requires intensive interaction, tolerance for differing systems, and gradual and incremental institutional cross-learning across Bank task teams and implementation partners.

By embracing a strategic shift by the Bank to engage early in a crisis and advance the humanitarian-recovery-development, the project aimed to advance the humanitarian-recovery-development nexus and a new way of working, illustrating the power of partnerships among key international actors like the FAO and ICRC.

Moving Forward

Moving forward, the Bank is committed to carry forward the first-ever Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for the Federal Republic of Somalia Financial Year (FY) 19-22, making disaster risk management and resilience to climate change central to its development approach in Somalia.

SEDRP provides a tangible case for CPF operationalization, yielding practical lessons learned for multi-sector interventions and partnerships that make resilience building a key underpinning of operations in Somalia. SEDRP’s success also contributed to the formulation of the RRF which will be integrated within the new Somalia National Development Plan (DP), currently under preparation.

The Bank will continue to broaden its support for resilience building in Somalia, working with the government to advance the RRF and further investing in resilience building interventions, such as through additional financing to the Special Financing Facility for Local Development Project (SFF-LD).

The Bank has also secured trust fund resources to document the lessons learned from SEDRP, and other Bank operations in FCV and emergency contexts, informing the development of training curriculum and tools to improve World Bank operations in FCV contexts. Also, the project design approach has been replicated in other FCV countries in arrears, the most recent case being Zimbabwe, where the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP), has similarly followed the model of direct grant provision and implementation by UN agencies.


The Story of Jimacle

When Jimcale introduced himself, it was apparent that he had experienced hard times. As an agro-pastoralist, the drought in Somaliland almost took everything from he and his family. As a father, he relied on 10 cows, 30 shoats, and a camel to take care of his eight children. As the drought hit, half of his livestock either died or were sold to buy food, water or fodder to keep the remaining animals alive. Jimcale believed that time was running out.


Just in time, he registered for FAO’s “Cash-for-Work” program, funded by the World Bank’s SEDRP. This initiative provided immediate cash to buy food and water while at the same time rehabilitating water-related productive assets to cater for livestock water needs.

Jimcale soon found a renewed sense of hope after meeting the selection criteria to participate in the program. After engaging with his community to restore water catchment infrastructure and harvesting to cater to community livestock water needs, Jimcale was given the necessary cash to support his family and meet their immediate food needs in exchange. Most importantly, the project gave Jimcale the ability to provide for the needs of his family and take control of their livelihood.

SEDRP reflects how international partners can come together to work with people like Jimcale by quickly assisting them while also setting the foundation for a resilient future against climatic and disaster shocks.

Jimcale’s family has reached a stable level of security and comfort. He believes he is now more prepared and resilient for when the next disaster comes, by increasing livestock he owns and their production of milk, storing his fodder surplus, and working with his village to maintain robust water infrastructure points.