Millions fear starvation as Somalia’s situation ‘deteriorates fast,’ UN warns

The situation in Somalia, where four million people are at risk of starvation, is “deteriorating rapidly” and risks being overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations has warned.

News Keydmedia Online
Millions fear starvation as Somalia’s situation ‘deteriorates fast,’ UN warns

The country is in the grips of its worst drought for decades, and around 650,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the last year as three years of little or no rain has decimated crops and increased the prices of food and water.

According to the UN, roughly 1.4 million children are acutely malnourished – including nearly 329,500 who are likely to be severely malnourished.

Experts say that a humanitarian catastrophe was avoided last year thanks to government and donor assistance, but fears are mounting that the international community is currently too distracted to help.

“The situation is grave and deteriorating rapidly,” said says Adam Abdelmoula, UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.

“The outlook was already grim prior to the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis. We have been overshadowed by the crisis in Tigray, Yemen, Afghanistan and now Ukraine seems to suck all the oxygen that is in the room,” he added. 

The UN says that around $1.5 billion is needed to ward off the humanitarian crisis – but just three per cent of that figure has been secured. 

This has raised fears of a repeat of 2011, when 260,000 people – half of them children – died of hunger or hunger-related issues. In contrast, a famine was averted in 2017 following the quick and effective mobilisation of the international community.

'Urgent' action needed

Unless humanitarian assistance is “urgently scaled up”, water and pasture shortages will increase widespread population displacement which accelerated rapidly in November and December. Almost 700,000 camels, goats, sheep and cattle died during the two-month period due to the lack of food caused by erratic rainfall.

Data shows that cumulative rainfall was 40 to 60 per cent lower than average across most parts of southern, central and northern Somalia. 

This led to the third lowest harvest in southern Somalia since 1995. The region’s cereal production in 2021 is estimated to be 58 per cent below the 1995-2020 average – and there are some concerns that disruption to international supply chains due to the war in Ukraine could also have a major impact on Somalia’s food security. 

The humanitarian disaster is also expected to worsen as the latest forecast suggests “moderately below-average rainfall” in April. The arid country already has 2.9 million internally displaced persons due to a combination of climate-related disasters and the terrorist group al-Shabaab which governs large parts of the territory.

Save the Children warned that there was only a “narrow window to prevent a major humanitarian disaster in Somalia”. The charity urged leading members of Somalia’s government to put aside political differences and focus on combating the drought.

The lack of rainfall is also causing widespread hunger and mass relocation in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya. The UN says that 2.9 million people in eastern Kenya are in urgent need of aid and 2.7 million people in Ethiopia.

The Horn of Africa, already one of the most impoverished regions in the world, has been hit by several disasters over the last few years including severe drought, reoccurring swarms of locusts and Covid-19.

Despite this, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Somalia said the region had lost the “CNN effect” of being able to motivate charitable action.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.