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Somalia: 25% of Population Faces Starvation, UN Warns

Somalia: 25% of Population Faces Starvation, UN Warns
A girl poses for a portrait in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Baidoa, Somalia, on Dec. 14. As people flee their homes because of drought, famine and fighting, camps have sprung up this year around the Somali capital and other cities. Image by Luke Dray

In the Horn of Africa, Somalia is grappling with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, marked by a devastating convergence of conflict, soaring food prices, and the lingering impacts of persistent droughts and destructive floods.

With over 11 million individuals in desperate circumstances, the United Nations has been sounding the alarm for several months, emphasizing the critical nature of the situation.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), projections for  November 14, 2023, reveals that a quarter of Somalia’s population is is expected to confront “crisis-level hunger or worse” this year.

Despite the end of a harsh two-year drought that brought the country to the brink of famine, families find little relief as floods, potentially the most severe in decades have displaced nearly half a million people, hindering their efforts to rebuild livelihoods already devastated by the preceding drought.

Petroc Wilton, WFP spokesperson for Somalia, emphasizes the necessity of support from the humanitarian community, highlighting the relentless impact of climate shocks, from drought to floods, exacerbating the hunger crisis.

He notes, “This bombardment of climate shocks, from drought to floods, will prolong the hunger crisis in Somalia. The drought killed millions of livestock and ruined countless hectares of pastures and farmlands.

Now, these devastating floods are crippling Somalia’s ability to recover.”

Laura Turner, Deputy Country Director for Somalia at the U.N. World Food Programme, expresses concern, stating, “The most vulnerable people in Somalia have been hit once again by climate change.

With these floods following right after the drought, it feels like a relentless bombardment of climate shocks for struggling families,”

Despite Humanitarian aid saving people from the brink of starvation in 2022, Somalia is still facing the highest levels of hunger in over a decade.

She stresses the need to provide communities with the tools and knowledge to break the crisis-driven cycle of hunger that has afflicted Somalia for too long.

A report by the Somalia government’s Minister of Health estimates that the drought claimed 43,000 lives in 2022.

In response to ominous weather forecasts predicting heavy rain and floods exacerbated by El Niño weather pattern, the U.N.

World Food Programme activated a flood anticipatory action program in October – its first in Africa – in coordination with the government of Somalia. Delivering preemptive cash transfers and warning messages, the program has reached 200,000 people so far with a total disbursement of $4.1 million.

However, additional funding is crucial to scale up anticipatory action programs and make longer-term investments in building resilience.

Since the beginning of November, floods intensified by the El Niño weather phenomenon, have claimed lives in Somalia and neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Kenya.

Communities along the Juba and Shabelle Rivers are battling to save homes, livestock, and crops as floods continue to ravage the region.

The floods hit along the Juba river in early November, in areas such as Luuq and Baardheere, where a key bridge was swept away. Areas along the Shabelle River, including Beletweyne, were inundated over the weekend leaving communities battling to save their homes, livestock and crops.

Amidst these environmental issues, Somalia is also grappling with the persistent threat of attacks by Islamist fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda.

These militants have been engaged in a brutal insurgency for over 15 years, further complicating the multifaceted challenges faced by the nation.

Without additional funding, the U.N. World Food Programme will struggle to address the increasing severity of climate shocks, adopt to environmental challenges, and break the cycle of crisis-driven dependence on humanitarian aid.

The U.N. World Food Programme’s funding gap in Somalia is $378 million from November 2023 to April 2024.

As Somalia endures the effects of the 2020-2023 drought, the longest on record, the nation faces a critical juncture in addressing the compounding issues of conflict, flash floods, and the persistent threat of insurgency, requiring urgent international attention and support.


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