The UK response to Somalia’s looming famine is painfully slow

A baby is treated for severe acute malnutrition at a special hospital in Mogadishu CREDIT: Ed Ram/Getty Images
A baby is treated for severe acute malnutrition at a special hospital in Mogadishu CREDIT: Ed Ram/Getty Images

By: Telegraph

This week, after two years of devastating drought and soaring food prices, the UN warned that without action, famine will hit Somalia within the next few weeks.

With half a million children at risk of dying, we urge the UK’s new Prime Minister not to stand by and watch, but to take swift, decisive action to save countless lives. It could be the most important global decision of her leadership.

The announcement should come as no surprise. In May, humanitarian agencies urged the Government to commit £750 million to the East Africa region to prevent famine. In early July, the International Development Select Committee warned of a possible “explosion of child deaths” in the region and urged the Government to set out a plan. 

Yet the response has been painfully slow in coming. As Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister failed to take sufficient action. Now, as she takes the reins of power, we urge her to show the same spirit of compassion and support that the
UK public has shown in response to the Ukraine crisis.

A moral choice

Because unless we act now, starvation in East Africa will kill just as surely as bullets and bombs in Ukraine. Already, the drought has devastated entire communities, with just under a million people displaced in this year alone. Last month, an estimated 1.5 million children under five faced acute malnutrition. 

The latest forecasts predict that conditions are going to get even worse, with an unprecedented fifth failed rainy season in a row expected this October to December.

Acting now could save millions of lives and protect the futures of countless girls and young women – a cause the Prime Minister has talked about as close to her heart.

Plan International has seen first-hand the impact of hunger on women and girls. We know that when food is scarce, girls often eat least and last, or else go without entirely. Hunger puts families under pressure and girls are often the first to be removed from school. For many, the chance for an education will be lost forever.

All this is why we’re calling on the Prime Minister to drive a strong global response to potential famine and starvation in Somalia and the wider East Africa region. She was swift to respond to the Ukraine crisis, but will she now show the same dedication to Somalia? 

The only moral choice must be to step up and act.

Sarah Champion is a Labour MP and Chair of the International Development Select Committee. Sadia Allin is the Country Director of Plan International Somalia

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