It's Probably Too Late to Avoid Famine in Somalia

'We are facing the death of children on a scale not seen in half a century,' says UNICEF
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2022 5:30 PM CDT
It's Probably Too Late to Avoid Famine in Somalia
Hamdi Yusuf, a malnourished child, is held by her mother in Dollow, Somalia on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. She was little more than bones and skin when her mother found her unconscious, two months after arriving in the camps and living on scraps of food offered by neighbors.   (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

The last time famine was declared in Somalia, 260,000 people died—half of them children—and “the world vowed never to let it happen again,” according to CBS News. That was in 2011, but it is happening again, and this time it could be much worse, according to aid workers. Drought is at the root of the crisis: five consecutive failed rainy seasons have wiped out crops and livestock, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and left roughly half country's the population at risk of starvation. Currently, aid groups are working to compile data necessary to declare a formal famine. As CBS notes, doing so carries no legal weight, but it may "galvanize the international community to help more urgently."

But aid workers say it may be too late. Outbreaks of measles and cholera are compounding the challenges at refugee camps, where wells are running dry and water must be trucked in. Furthermore, the Islamist militant group Al-Shabab still holds sway and blocks humanitarian aid in many areas. In a conference call, UNICEF spokesman James Elder essentially pleaded with reporters to get the word out, per Al Jazeera. "Things are bad, and every sign indicates that they are going to get worse," Elder said. "Without greater action and investment, we are facing the death of children on a scale not seen in half a century."

Tens of thousands of families have fled their villages in southern Somalia for makeshift camps like one in the small town of Dollow, on the Ethiopian border, where a BBC reporter witnessed the death of a two-year-old from hunger. The child's family was relatively well off a year or two ago, with 40 head of cattle, but—like so many others—drought has wiped out their only source of wealth. The international community has started sending help, but the UN has so far raised just 72% of the $1.5 billion it says it needs in order to stave off famine. (Read more Somalia stories.)

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