In Somalia, a 160% increase in people experiencing catastrophic levels of food insecurity, famine, and disease has come from a historic fourth consecutive failed rainy season, increasing prices, and an inadequate humanitarian response. With no end in sight to the country’s terrible drought, the threat of starvation looms larger than ever.
A new report from the Famine Early Warning Network and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), based on a rapid assessment by multiple United Nations agencies, shows that 7.1 million Somalis – close to 50% of the population – now face crisis-level food insecurity or worse through at least September 2022.
Crisis of epic proportions
“Of those, 213 000 people face catastrophic hunger and starvation, a drastic increase from the 81 000 forecast in April. More areas are at risk of famine, particularly in the south of the country in regions where insecurity and conflict makes humanitarian access more challenging,” the FAO said via a statement.
“These figures reflect a food security situation that is expected to deteriorate rapidly over the coming months. United Nations (UN) agencies and partners are now focusing their limited resources on famine prevention to protect the country’s most vulnerable, as meteorological organisations warn that another below-average rainy season could follow later in the year.”
Between January and April 2022, humanitarian agencies reached 2.8 million people with lifesaving and livelihood assistance through drought assistance and famine prevention programs, but the new assessment shows that the current scale of assistance and funding from the international community is insufficient to protect those most at risk.
“We are staring at a potential calamity; failure to act now will be tragic for scores of families in Somalia,” said Adam Abdelmoula, deputy special representative of the secretary-general, resident and humanitarian coordinator of the UN.
“Somalia is in danger of entering an unprecedented fifth consecutive failed rainy season, meaning hundreds of thousands of people face the risk of famine. Famine cost the lives of 260 000 Somalis in 2010-2011.This cannot be allowed to happen again in 2022. It is urgent that more is done to avert this risk and done now.”
Nightmare food prices
Local food has become scarce due to consecutive seasons of poor or failed domestic production, livestock deaths, and imported food prices reaching record levels – in part due to supply chain impacts due to the conflict in Ukraine. Somali families are increasingly unable to cope with soaring food prices. Food prices have soared by 140% to 160% in some regions of the country, leaving many people hungry and destitute.
Since mid-2021, almost three million cattle have died as a result of the drought. The drop in meat and milk production has exacerbated malnutrition, particularly among young children in pastoral communities who rely on local supplies. By the end of the year, an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five will have suffered acute malnutrition, with 386 400 of them likely to be severely malnourished; a 55 000 increase over prior predictions.
“We must act immediately to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. The lives of the most vulnerable are already at risk from malnutrition and hunger, and we cannot wait for a declaration of famine to act,” said El-Khidir Daloum, WFP’s country director in Somalia. “It’s a race against time to prevent famine and WFP is scaling up as much as possible, prioritising our limited resources to save those most at risk. But as these new figures show, there is an urgent need for more resources to meet this escalating hunger crisis.”
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