Half of Somalia’s estimated population, or more than 6 million people, need emergency assistance. The country is on the brink of a famine and the humanitarian community is raising concerns about a repeat of 2011's famine which killed about 266,000 people. During a recent visit in Somalia, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged the world to act immediately. “We need massive support from the international community to avoid a repetition of the tragic events of 2011,” Guterres said. While the humanitarian crisis in Somalia is still receiving little media attention, here are five things to know:
1. Somalia is one of the four countries facing the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, according to UN Humanitarian Chief, Stephen O’Brien. More than 20 million people are facing famine and starvation in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, "people will simply starve to death," O’Brien declared in front of UN Security Council. The UN needs $4.4 billion – including $825 million for Somalia - by July to address the emergency needs.
2. Drought is not the only contributing factor to the food crisis. Armed conflicts and the presence of extremist groups have exacerbated the humanitarian situation leading to more poverty and a shortage of economic resources. Violent extremist groups are reported to have blocked roads and stolen food, rendering access to some affected areas difficult, if not impossible.
Watch interview with Christopher Hillburner, Senior Advisor at the Famine Early Warning Systems Network discussing the reasons for concern in Somalia:
3. Somalia is not facing its first episode of famine. The African nation has historically been subject to famines, especially in the pastoral areas of the center and north. In 1991, an estimated 300,000 people died as a result of diseases, starvation, and the civil war. Twenty years later, in 2011, another famine killed about 266,000 people. The current crisis is bearing worrying similarities with the conditions leading to the 2011 famine, including collapsing labor prices, increasing food and water prices, an increase in animal deaths, and the rising malnutrition rates.
4. Limited or no access to safe water is leading to an increase of the rate of diseases. Deaths from cholera and acute watery diarrhoea(AWD) are rising sharply. The International Organization for Migration reports that over 10,000 cases have been identified so far in 2017, compared to 15,000 for all of 2016. The diseases could be a death sentence for children weakened by hunger. Save the Children has reported the death of at least 200 individuals. IOM’s medical team in Somalia is providing direct health consultations to affected communities including treatment for detected cases of AWD and vaccinations against preventable diseases.
5. People are walking thousands miles to search for something to eat and drink. They are leaving their barren lands and home to get help. Since January, at least 138,000 people have been internally displaced because of the drought and looming famine, according to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix. The capital Mogadishu, the northern region of Awdal and Baidoa have received the majority of internally displaced.
Our partner, the International Organization for Migration, has deployed its team to distribute food, water, shelter and offer medical care. Help us continue our emergency operations in Somalia by donating today.