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1/2 Million children could die – Somalia on the brink of famine, experts warn


Abukar Mohamed Muhudin | Anadolu Agency via AFP

John Burger - published on 09/14/22

If international community waits for official declaration, tens of thousands of people could be dead.

Facing a fifth consecutive failed rainy season, Somalia is on the brink of a famine. But by the time the international community formally recognizes the crisis as such, tens of thousands of people could already be dead.

Peter Maurer, the outgoing president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned that if the international community waits to take action until a famine is officially declared, “tens of thousands of people will already have died,”according to the German news agency DW

It is hoped that the grain shipments from Ukraine – under a UN-brokered deal to allow ships to pass through the Black Sea – will ease some of the suffering. Prior to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Somalia imported 90% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia. The six-month war has contributed to food insecurity in places like Somalia.

But a number of other factors, such as conflict and climate, are presenting serious challenges for the Horn of Africa as well. 

“East Africa – a region of the continent that includes Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea, and Djibouti – is in the midst of an intense hunger crisis,” says Catholic Relief Services. “The combination of ongoing conflict, political instability, drought, flooding, COVID-19, and inflation have left more than 50 million people in the region in need of emergency food aid. The climate shocks alone have caused large-scale displacement and major crop and livestock losses.”

The number of people in dire need of emergency humanitarian assistance in Somalia has increased from 4.1 million at the beginning of 2022 to 7.1 million.

“The situation is expected to deteriorate into 2023,” Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said at a press conference in Geneva. What is being done is “minimal compared to the huge needs” of the region, he added. 

DW reported that the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths said that in Somalia alone, more than $1 billion is needed to prevent the worst from happening.

A steep price, but the cost of inaction might mean the deaths of 500,000 children.  

“We’ve got more than half a million children facing preventable death,” James Elder, spokesperson for the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said in Geneva. “It’s a pending nightmare.”

But Abubakar Dahir Osman, the UN’s permanent representative in Somalia, emphasized that humanitarian aid alone cannot provide a lasting solution to the famine in Somalia.

Osman emphasized that the relationship between humanitarian aid and development needed to be strengthened to find sustainable solutions for those who are suffering.

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