Losing children to starvation would be a loss to humanity

Mogadishu, April 12, 2022 – Millions of Somalis are at risk of starvation as the effects of a prolonged drought continue to destroy lives and livelihoods and growing hardship exceeds resources available for humanitarian assistance, United Nations agencies warn today.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) are calling for an immediate injection of funds to ensure a top-up of life-saving aid to Somalia. This call follows the release of a new Integrated Food Safety Classification (IPC) report that reveals whenx million Somalis, or nearly 40 % of the population now face extreme food insecurity, with famine likely to occur in six regions of the country.

Since the beginning of the year, the number of people facing extreme acute food insecurity due to drought and related shocks has almost doubled. This reflects a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation as millions of Somalis have exhausted their capacity to deal with the crisis and the lack of funding means humanitarian workers will be unable to meet the needs of the growing number of people in an emergency fulfill.

Millions of lives are at stake

« The projection of the risk of hunger in six locations is extremely worrying and should serve as a very serious warning if we really want to say ‘never again’ after 2011. The reality is that time is not on our side and that many other lives and livelihoods are inevitably lost if funding is further delayed », called Adam Abdelmoula, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Head and Humanitarian Coordinator. “I therefore continue to urge the authorities and our development partners to act decisively and help increase resources to meet the rapidly increasing needs, save more lives and secure more livelihoods for the Somali people. added Adam Abdelmoula.

Overall, aid organizations reached nearly two million people with humanitarian assistance in February 2022, but a critical shortage of donor funding means they are unable to sustain and expand their support to meet growing needs. If this shortage is not addressed urgently, it will contribute to a worsening of the situation, with the real risk of widespread famine. The last time such a humanitarian tragedy struck Somalia was in 2011, when a quarter of a million people died in famine.

« The resources we need to respond to a crisis of this magnitude simply have not arrived. We are all watching this tragedy unfold, our hands tied », called Etienne Peterschmitt, the FAO representative in Somalia. « I would like to emphasize that it is not too late. Funds received today can still prevent the worst, but they must be made available in large scale and very quickly », he added.

Children under the age of five are among the most vulnerable people as the drought worsens and access to food and milk becomes very scarce due to rising commodity prices and livestock losses. Environment 1.4 Millions of children will be affected by acute malnutrition by the end of this year, including about a quarter, or 330 000 Children with severe acute malnutrition.

« Children’s lives are in danger. Unless the funding gap is closed, malnutrition rates will continue to rise and children are at risk of severe malnutrition and preventable diseases. Losing children to starvation would be a loss to humanity », called Angela Kearney, UNICEF representative in Somalia. « Dealing with indicators related to drought now will greatly improve a child’s future prospects. »

Gaps in the funding chain

The drought response is severely underfunded, leaving many Somalis without assistance. The 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, which aims to: 1.5 Billion dollars, will only be funded with 4.4 % as Somalia competes with other global emergencies for funding.

As the hunger and food crisis rapidly worsens, the gap between food insecurity and available resources widens. The inability of UN agencies, funds and programs to respond to growing needs means prioritizing humanitarian needs and making the difficult decision of who does and does not receive aid.

« We are literally taking food from the hungry to feed the hungry », called El-Khidir Daloum, WFP Representative and Country Director in Somalia. “It could not come at a worse time to be forced to prioritize our limited resources as we face a humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia. This year the humanitarian need and hunger are unprecedented, but I beg the world not to turn its back on Somalia or wait until it’s too late. Millions of lives are at stake.”

The fear of famine spreads

According to a recent analysis by FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and its technical partners, three factors will contribute to famine spreading across the country in the next three months : the absence of the rainy season from April to June 2022, the lack of adequate humanitarian assistance and a sustained upward trend in food prices. With a below-average chance of rain, insufficient financing, disrupted global supply chains and rising commodity prices due to the conflict in Ukraine, Somalia is facing a situation that could very quickly lead to famine.

There must be at least 20 famines in an area for a famine to be declared % of population in a disaster (CIP Phase 5). FSNAU and its partners have identified potential hot spots in six different regions 5 to 10 % of the population, i.e. about 81 000 people, are already facing starvation conditions. In this scenario, the affected areas face extreme food shortages, severe malnutrition, and excessive mortality from famine.

FAO, OCHA, UNICEF and WFP are seriously concerned about the worsening drought and the possibility of famine within the next three months. With current funding shortfalls, bleak rainfall forecasts and soaring food prices around the world, authorities are calling for immediate funding to scale up humanitarian assistance in the country’s hardest-hit areas.

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