Listening in to Central Somalia: tracking food security and livelihood indicators for IDPs

Blog entry originally posted in August 2014 on the Humanitarian Innovation Fund website.

After three survey rounds in Somalia, the time has come to take a look at results.  As in the Democratic Republic of Congo, our operators in Somalia have been conducting live interviews by phone from a call center established in a WFP field office.  In Somalia, we ask displaced people living in camps in Central Somalia about their food consumption and the coping strategies they use.

Food consumption score: degradation as the lean season progresses

The data collected suggests that the food consumption has deteriorated slightly during the period.  In May,  12.6% of respondents had a poor or borderline food consumption score (3.6% and 9% respectively), increasing to 17.4% in June (6.3% poor and 11.1%  borderline) and  standing at 17.6%  (6.8% poor in June and 10.8% moderate) . The change is statistically significant (p=0.00), and matches the expected seasonal pattern of declining food consumption as the lean season advances.

The period covered by the phone surveys cover the end of the Gu rain season (April to June), and the beginning of the Hagaa dry season (July-September). Levels of food insecurity are usually higher for the community during the lean season, when income opportunities are low and food prices are high. This is reflected by the results of our survey, which register a decrease in the food consumption score over the months of June and July.

Nonetheless, our phone rounds do show that fewer households were consuming a ‘poor’ or ‘borderline’ diet in May-June-July than at baseline in September 2013. This could be due to an increase in assistance, coupled with improved economic access to food. Indeed, the prices of imported rice and wheat flour, the preferred cereals consumed in Central Somalia, declined from 24,000 and 18,000 shillings per kilo respectively in September 2013 to 16,000 shillings per kilo in July 2014.

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Figure 1: Food Consumption Score: increase of ‘poor’ and ‘borderline’ scores in May, June and July Source: WFP phone surveys Somalia, 2014

Coping strategies: decline of emergency strategies in July

In order to understand how people’s livelihood strategies are changing, we classified the data we collected into three categories, stress, crisis and emergency. The ‘stress’ includes purchasing or borrowing food on credit, spending savings, engaging in casual labor and withdrawing children from school. ‘Crisis’ refers to selling non-productive assets such as radios or furniture. Finally, ‘emergency’ strategies captures begging and the sale of productive assets.

As shown by Figure 2, in June, compared to May, the percentage of people implementing ‘Stress’ and ‘Emergency’ strategies increased from 13% to 17% and from 53% to 58% respectively. These results reveal that people were engaging in more strategies to face the hunger period, a phenomenon that corroborates the findings of the food consumption score during the same period.

Nevertheless, the recourse to ‘Emergency’ strategies in July was high (41%) but lower than in both May and June. This could be due to the increase in the social support to the deprived people (including IDPs) in the run-up to, during and at the end of the month of Ramadhan.

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Figure 2: Percentage of people who engaged in stress, crisis and emergency strategies. Source: WFP phone surveys Somalia, 2014

To date, response rates to our calls in Somalia have stood between 63% and 57%. This level of response is okay considering we never distributed phones in Somalia – a somewhat labor-intensive exercise we have to go through for in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  We see an erosion in response (which is a trend we have seen in other countries).  We are discussing ways to maintain it, such as recruiting new respondents or being more flexible in the way we contact our respondents and keep them engaged.

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Figure 3: Response rates, Somalia Source: WFP phone surveys Somalia, 2014

For now, our operators are successfully completing at least 250 calls a month. Interestingly, women headed households represented 90% of our sample in Somalia during the first three rounds. We hope to share more insights on gender and food security in a later post.

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