With more than six million of people having not enough food to eat, drought-ridden Somalia is at risk of a repeat of the famine that killed 260,000 people in 2011.
“This is the worst drought Somalia has faced over the past 60 years,“ said Mohamoud Egal who returned from a recent visit in Somalia and in the northern region of Somaliland.
Egal, a member of the Somali diaspora in the United States and founder of the Texas-based nonprofit Amoud Foundation, says that a new crisis is looming.
Earlier this month, several UN agencies including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) warned against a possible tragedy if the international aid is not stepped up.
Out of six million people who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, about 363,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished of which 71,000 are at risk of dying.
IOM also foresees an increase of the number of internally displaced persons from 1 to 3 million by June 2017. IOM ‘s data have showed a rapid increase in the number of households arriving at urban centers, in search of much needed relief.
“Time is of the essence; the country hangs dangerously at the cusp of a famine. Water, food, medicine and shelter are our most immediate priorities. We cannot afford a repeat of Somalia's devastating 2010 drought under our watch. We must do everything we can to stop the worst from happening," said IOM Somalia Chief of Mission Gerry Waite in a press release published earlier this month.
While it might be too early to make comparisons, the current drought and food crisis bear the signs of the 2011 famine, according to Maxwell Daniel, Professor and Acting Director of the Feinstein International Center at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, in an email interview. “Now is the time for early action to prevent loss of livelihood assets, and to prevent widespread distress migration,” he said.
In 2011, famine early warning systems clearly identified the risk of famine in South Central Somalia but timely action to prevent the onset of famine was not taken. This resulted in several thousands of deaths and population displacement.
In addition, the crisis was worsened by conflict and a ban on food aid in areas held by Islamist militant group al-Shabab.
Time is of the essence: the country hangs dangerously at the cusp of a famine. Water, food, medicine and shelter are our most immediate priorities." IOM Somalia Chief of Mission, Gerry Waite
For Egal from the Amoud foundation, the international community is failing again to address the early signs of a famine because, he says, countries are busy dealing with other crises, like the Syria crisis. “People are not paying attention to what is happening in the Horn of Africa,” Egal said in a phone interview.
Listen interview with Mohamoud Egal, Founder of Amoud Foundation:
This year, the annual fundraiser organized by Egal’s foundation in Irving, Texas, will be the occasion to raise awareness and funds to respond to the drought and food crisis in Somalia. American-Somali, Ilhan Omar, recently elected at the Minnesota House Representative will be the keynote speaker.
Among the western countries, the United States is home to the largest Somali migrant community estimated at 150,000 individuals in 2015 by the United Nations Population Fund. The Somali American population is highly concentrated in the Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington are and Columbus, Ohio.