Humanitarians change course to prevent famine in Somalia: UN

245,000 people in Somalia have been displaced due to the drought, with the number projected to reach 1.4 million in 2022 as the situation worsens. PHOTO | FILE | NMG
245,000 people in Somalia have been displaced due to the drought, with the number projected to reach 1.4 million in 2022 as the situation worsens. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


United Nations partners are taking a different approach to famine prevention in Somalia: focusing on collaboration with local authorities and communities in at-risk areas, UN humanitarians said on Friday.

“In 2016/2017, a similar shift coupled with timely and scaled up humanitarian assistance averted famine in Somalia,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

“As the drought in Somalia continues to deteriorate the country faces the risk of famine in six areas through June 2022 if the April to June ‘Gu’ season rains fail as forecast, food prices continue to rise, and humanitarian assistance is not scaled up,” the office said. The number of people affected by extreme drought is up from 4.9 million in March to 6.1 million in April. The search for water, food and pasture displaced about 759,400 people.

The Ukraine conflict helps hike food prices.

The office said that up to 90 percent of the water sources across Somalia are drying up, including the Shabelle and Juba rivers. Water levels are below historic minimum levels. An estimated 3.5 million people lack sufficient access to water.

Hunger is rising, with more than 6 million Somalis now facing severe food shortages from April through mid-2022, with an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) of 3 or higher, OCHA said. Acute malnutrition in children is on the rise, reaching catastrophic levels in some districts in southern Somalia.

It said that some 1.4 million children face acute malnutrition this year, and 45 out of 74 districts have global acute malnutrition rates of above 15 percent.

Lack of access to timely and adequate health care and insufficient access to clean water, food and nutrition have contributed to a spike in preventable diseases, OCHA said. Since January, authorities confirmed more than 3,675 cases of acute watery diarrhea/cholera and 2,720 cases of measles, increasing new admissions.

The office said drought disrupted school attendance for 1.4 million children in Somalia, of whom 420,000 are at risk of dropping out. About 45 percent of the students are girls.

Since January, humanitarian partners have reached almost 2.6 million people in Somalia with lifesaving assistance, including cash assistance and vouchers, OCHA said. The 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan has received only 66.7 million U.S. dollars of the 1.5 billion dollars required. That’s only 4.6 percent.

It said the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated 14 million U.S. dollars for the Somalia response, and the Somalia Humanitarian Fund allocated 20 million dollars. The funding brings total CERF funding for the drought response in Somalia to 66 million dollars since early 2021.

The OCHA said the drought risks becoming one of the worst climate-induced emergencies in the Horn of Africa’s recent history. “This is one of the most severe La Nina-induced droughts in recent memory in the Horn of Africa, leaving 15-16 million people across the Horn of Africa facing high levels of acute hunger.”

Last week, the UN World Meteorological Organization said, “Eastern Africa is facing the very real prospect that the rains will fail for a fourth consecutive season, placing Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia into a drought of a length not experienced in the last 40 years.”

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