Somalia moves towards the humanitarian abyss in the face of international inaction

The UN considers "unacceptable" the increase in migrant victims in North Africa and the Mediterranean


Somalia has been taking steps for months towards what could be a humanitarian catastrophe. A chain of crises has worsened the situation in the country in the Horn of Africa to extreme levels, without the repeated calls by organizations to try to mobilize the international community having had any effect so far.

The UN estimates that more than 7 million Somalis, roughly half the population, need humanitarian assistance, and the situation may worsen if a fifth consecutive failed rainy season is confirmed. The drought has already claimed the lives of three million head of cattle, the cornerstone of local livelihoods.

The situation is unprecedented in recent history and raises fears of a scenario similar to that of just over a decade ago, when more than 200,000 people died of famine. The United Nations already estimates that more than 350,000 children could die from malnutrition before September if the situation does not improve.

More than 38,000 people survive at a level of extreme malnutrition, in which their lives are in danger, and the forecast is that the figure will skyrocket above 200,000 in the month of September. The number of destroyed children treated at a Save the Children medical center in Baidoa, southwestern Somalia, has increased by 270 percent this year, with at least 14 children dying in the first five months of 2022.

The director of operations of Save the Children in Somalia, Mohamed Ahmed, regrets in statements to Europa Press that, for Somalia, there has been no “recovery window” after the COVID-19 pandemic and the plague of desert locusts, which “They were already having a huge impact on the fragile economy” of Somalia.

Added to this perfect storm are the collateral effects of the war in Ukraine, both in terms of supply and prices – some basic products have shot up in cost by up to 160 percent. Before the conflict, Somalia imported 92 percent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia, underlining the degree of global interdependence of less developed countries.


Ahmed is blunt. He believes that the international community is not paying the attention it should to the emergency and that, in general, “the aid system is not responding adequately.” Not in vain, of the almost 1,500 million dollars required, just over a quarter have been collected.

The person in charge of Save the Children fears not only for the immediate effects of these shortcomings, but also for the hidden consequences that the current humanitarian crisis may leave in a country that has been walking on the wire for decades. Living in poverty, he warns, means “less income, less clean water, worse sanitation.”

“Children who suffer from starvation may not grow at all or not develop their full cognitive potential,” says Ahmed, who is also concerned about the effects at the level of protection or in the educational field, especially for the displaced. More than 150 schools have already had to close due to the drought, affecting 1.4 million children.

Ahmed’s main fears for the future are that “children are beginning to die” and “more displacement is taking place” — some 800,000 people have already had to leave their homes — while he warns that families could be forced to adopt emergency behaviours.

A recent study by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) already showed that all families recognized that they had had to skip a meal in the last week and more than half assumed that they would not be able to return home. short term.

In situations such as those in Somalia, it is also relatively common for families to choose to take their children out of school or seek new sources of income through them, for example by arranging marriages or promoting child labour, Ahmed points out.

“Without timely action, Somali children will continue to die. That is why Save the Children is urging donors to act now and avoid famine,” claims the head of the NGO, who still believes there is room to avoid the worst case scenario in one of the most disadvantaged countries in the world.

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Written by Editor TLN

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