Drought in Somalia: “We Are On the Edge of Famine”
Known as the country’s worst drought in approximately 50 years, the severe hunger in Somalia is a crisis that requires immediate action.
BY RUBA ABDELGALIL
According to experts at several nonprofits, the severity of the drought in Somalia is exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine, insufficient rainfall and the struggles bordering countries face.
Somalia is home to nearly 16 million people, of which roughly 7.1 million face catastrophic hunger. The remainder of the population also feels the effects of food insecurity. Approximately 1.5 million children, all under the age of 5, suffer from acute malnutrition. Of these children, about 25 percent suffer from severe malnutrition.
Typically, a year in Somalia consists of two rainy seasons. Currently, Somalia is approaching the fifth season in which the amount of rainfall has not sufficed. The country’s next rainy season will take place from October to November. Estimated forecasts suggest the season will also underperform. If this occurs, experts from the World Food Program state that this will be a historic event for the horn of Africa.
“If this fifth season fails, we will be in unprecedented and dangerous territory,” says Petroc Wilton, the head of communications for the World Food Program.
Although climate shock and flooding frequently occur in this country, this drought is of unusual intensity. This issue has raised concern in governments of bordering countries and worldwide. Despite their acknowledgment of this crisis, these governments face difficulties in their nations. Specifically, in East Africa, similar issues are happening. Countries such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya face hunger crises due to related reasons. These countries have similar climates and several rely on Ukrainian and Russian imports. Experts from several nonprofits are hesitant to refer to this crisis as famine. With that in mind, they acknowledge the possibility of progression into that stage.
Within Somalia, conditions worsened since the outset of the crisis in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine are responsible for 90 percent of Somalia’s wheat exports, a prominent crop in the average Somalian’s diet. Once the war began, wheat supply considerably decreased, thus causing prices to skyrocket. With a shortage in agriculture, animals and livestock are subsequently affected by this drought. Since agriculture and livestock are heavily relied on for sustenance, the consequences of this inaccessibility are faced nationwide. Not only does this interfere with their diets, but the scarcity of wheat and other necessities raises the cost of living. Due to the unlikelihood of a woman or child making a livable wage in this country, those two demographics are directly affected.
Because of the proximity in which the two crises occurred, the crisis in Somalia receives little recognition. The crisis in Ukraine also creates issues in worldwide fuel supply. Since the war began, the price of oil has increased by an estimated 300 percent. Russia is responsible for 12 percent of the global oil supply. While oil imports have not stopped, there is a notable gap in supply.
“We are on the edge of famine,” Wilton said.
The World Food Program is the largest humanitarian agency in Somalia. Of their many programs, the main one focuses on supplying life-saving food assistance to those most vulnerable. According to them, the supplies they have will suffice until September of 2022; this signifies that this program promptly needs more funding to feed those in critical condition. To maintain progress across the next 6 months, the WFP needs about 320 million dollars.
Since this program’s main source of funding is donations from governments, such as the US, experts recommend citizens to notify their local governments of the importance of this crisis. Other aiding organizations include Care, UNICEF, and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). These organizations work with the Somalian government to ensure food security for those facing malnutrition and shelter for those displaced by flooding. To support these organizations, one may volunteer or make donations.
Despite the extremity of this drought, there remains a possibility to stop conditions from worsening. As of July 2022, the WFP alone reached 4 million people in total across all programs. This is an immense level of progression when considering the time period of 3 months. Other organizations such as UNICEF are working to ensure each child receives nutrition, healthcare and education. In addition to aiding kids, UNICEF also seeks to support young mothers. Statistics show that 5 percent of women ages 15-49 die due to pregnancy. Similarly, about 13 percent of kids in Somalia die before reaching the age of 5.
The hunger crisis in Somalia is on the verge of being recognized as a famine. This drought is the product of an unsteady climate, the Ukraine crisis, and little media coverage. Although conditions continue to worsen, a possibility to make a change before it becomes a famine remains. Many nonprofit organizations are devoted to aiding those at risk of severe malnutrition, as well as the many displaced by flooding. Experts encourage those not living in Somalia to notify their local governments and raise awareness about this tragedy.