The latest food security analysis conducted by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the oldest and highest-level humanitarian coordination forum in the United Nations system, indicates that Somalia is at a “tipping point” andn which the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis are in immediate danger.
The directors of the Committee warned that the famine* suffered by the African nation is focused on two areas of the Bay region (Baidoa and Burhakaba districts), located in south-central Somalia, and that if the significant and immediate humanitarian aid, this food shortage is likely to last until March 2023.
But those enclaves are not the only ones affected, and millions of Somalis are facing extreme levels of acute hunger. Among the people most affected are pregnant and lactating women, and children under five years of age, who need urgent help to avoid the worst scenario.
The famine begins without warning
The directors of the Committee warned that the famine could already have begun and recalled the serious lack of food suffered in 2011, when almost half of the more than 250,000 people who died of starvation, many of them children, did so before the declaration famine officer.
The total number of people suffering from hunger in the Horn of Africa is more than 20 million, a record that is considered “unacceptable”.
Local authorities, governments, UN agencies and NGOs have been warning for more than a year about the unsustainable numbers of hungry people. However, these warnings were ignored and, despite global commitments to anticipate crises, the funds needed for these activities have not reached the necessary volume.
Although the rapid increase in humanitarian aid since the beginning of the year has managed to save many lives, the resources available are quickly outstripped by the proliferation of needs.
Thus, called on the donor community to provide immediate funding to enable local and international NGOs to scale up assistance on the ground and prevent further deaths, before rural communities are forced to leave their homes in search of food.
“Together, we have prevented famine in the past. We can and we must do it again. In a world of staggering wealth, it is unacceptable for people to starve. We must act immediately,” they concluded.
One and a half million children at risk of acute malnutrition
For her part, the representative of UNICEF in Somalia, Wafaa Saeed, stressed today at a press conference in Geneva that the Bay region is not the only one facing a deep humanitarian crisis, and indicated that there are 74 districts affected throughout the country, of which twelve require help urgent.
“It is a malnutrition crisis: Malnutrition has reached critical levels: 1.5 million children, almost half of the population under the age of five, may suffer from acute malnutrition. From them, 385,000 will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition. These are unprecedented figures.” alerted.
In addition to food, Saeed highlighted the importance of water supply – which 4.5 million people need – and sanitation, citing disease outbreaks, which have skyrocketed between January and July, with at least 8,400 suspected cases of watery diarrhoea/cholera and about 13,000 measles. , He also stressed the urgency of addressing the education of children.
“Currently, more than three million school-age children have been directly affected by the drought and 900,000 are at risk of dropping out of school. half are girls”, he narrowed down.
© UNICEF/Sebastian Rich
Internally displaced persons camps, to the limit
Likewise, the director for Somalia of the NGO Danish Council for Refugees, Audrey Crawford, pointed out that if action is not taken quickly during the last months of 2022, the death of children will reach “an unimaginable magnitude”.
During his appearance before the media in the Swiss city, he highlighted that some 30,000 people per week recently arrived and passed through the IDP camps, which represents an increase of more than 135% compared to recent months, and estimated the number of displaced people so far this year at one million people.
Crawford added that most of them had been walking for up to 10 days in search of food and water, and that they arrived at the camps “literally with nothing, in a deteriorated state and with malnourished or dead children.”
“Many mothers I have spoken to had buried their children in the days before, either because they had contracted diarrhea or measles in the overly congested camps, or malnourished en route. We have been asked to monitor cemeteries as not enough data is being collected to show mortality rates as many deaths occur en route in non-government controlled areas,” he stated.