Somalia’s worst drought in four decades has pushed one million people into fleeing their homes and brought the entire country to the brink of famine, according to the UN.
Over 75 per cent of that million are internally displaced refugees.
About four failed rainy seasons have destroyed crops and livestock; and an expected fifth such season will displace many more families.
Somalia director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mohammed Abdi, said the one million milestone served as a massive alarm bell for Somalia.
He noted that more families were being forced to leave everything behind, because there was literally no water or food left in their villages.
Mr Abdi thus called for urgent aid funding before it was too late.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is seeing a sharp rise in children under the age of 5 being admitted to IRC nutrition clinics across Somalia.
One IRC clinic in Mogadishu recorded an 818% increase in admissions for severe malnutrition cases from February to June. The IRC is calling for the international community including world leaders and donors to immediately and urgently scale up funding and attention to the East Africa region.
Abukar Mohamud, IRC’s Deputy Director of Programs for Somalia said:
“We’re extremely concerned – the number of children we are seeing in our nutrition clinics has risen exponentially since the beginning of the year. If things continue on this trajectory, the consequences will be catastrophic.”
“So many people we meet in the clinics recount stories of loved ones dying of hunger as they flee their homes in search of food, water and pasture – we are clearly seeing a famine looming on the horizon.”
“Somalia is seeing the worst of the crisis, with over 200,000 already living in the most extremes of hunger, but the challenge is regional. Across East Africa people are facing the worst drought in 40 years. By February 2023 up to 26 million people could experience extreme hunger if assistance isn’t drastically scaled up”
“People are not just dying due to a lack of food. Hunger means their weakened bodies cannot fight off diseases like diarrhea, measles or malaria so death rates are high. Children are particularly at risk and often die at double the rate of adults. And those who survive will face ill health for the rest of their lives. The 2011 famine saw over 250,000 people die of hunger – half of whom were children.
“We must be clear – if famine is declared it will be too late for hundreds of thousands of people who are already living on so little food that they are in physical pain, their children’s growth has been stunted and they are leaving their homes in search of food.
“We need action now to bring the humanitarian response to scale and save lives. Donors should urgently channel funding to front line responders who can reach those most in need and deliver the interventions such as health programming, food and cash assistance, and clean water that people need to survive. Every day of delay will cause suffering to grow.”