Projected Famine in Somalia as Drought Crisis Cripples the Region
The IPC Famine Review Committee released their projection that, in the absence of an urgent increase in humanitarian assistance, famine is expected to occur in Buur Hakaba and Baidoa districts of southern Somalia this year between October and December. The United States is gravely concerned by this stark forecast and by the outsized scale of humanitarian need throughout the country, primarily as a result of a historically unprecedented drought marked by four back-to-back failed rainy seasons. More than 7 million people are facing grave hunger, and many of them are facing outright starvation – something I witnessed firsthand during my recent trip to Somalia.
Somalia is a country in which many families have yet to fully recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last regional drought in 2017, or the last Famine in 2011, leaving many households with few resources to confront the effects of the current drought. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has also significantly increased the cost of food, fertilizer, and fuel, exacerbating humanitarian needs across the region.
This famine projection does not have to come to pass. When another drought devastated Somalia in 2017, rapid international action helped avert a famine. Today, a significant increase in humanitarian assistance can still help prevent mass starvation and deaths. But the window to prevent this famine projection from becoming a reality is closing quickly and the next several weeks are critical. The World Meteorological Organization recently reported new models that show with a high degree of confidence that we are entering the fifth consecutive failed rainy season. Continued drought combined with catastrophic hunger, disease, and staggering displacement could condemn people in Somalia who already find themselves in dire conditions to long-lasting human suffering and despair.
The United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, representing over half of all humanitarian funding for Somalia in 2022. USAID has rapidly scaled up relief efforts to provide emergency assistance, including providing food assistance to at least 3.5 million people per month, vital malnutrition treatment, responding to disease outbreaks and other health needs, providing shelter and protection services, and providing communities with safe drinking water, sanitation, and improved hygiene. USAID funding for drought in Somalia has been more than $668 million this fiscal year alone, and we are prepared to do more in the coming weeks to save as many lives as possible.
But we must all act now. No one donor or government can solve this crisis alone, which is why we urgently call on all donors – both traditional and emerging donors – to step up now to help prevent mass starvation and deaths. Waiting for a famine is not an option.
USAID believes that donors can have the most immediate impact by surging support to humanitarian partners already on the ground in the region, facilitating a scale-up of assistance to those who need it the most. We urge other donors to prioritize life-saving interventions within the key sectors of the drought response, including food assistance, nutrition support, vital health care services, access to water and sanitation, emergency shelter, and protection assistance for vulnerable people.
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