The UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has said that famine will occur in October in parts of Somalia according to the latest food security and nutrition analysis.
In 2011, the last time a famine was declared in Somalia, 260,000 people lost their lives. Half of those who died were children under the age of five. This time, the death toll could be even worse. This year’s drought is more severe and is affecting more parts of the country than in 2011.
There are already an estimated 213,000 people classed as being at IPC level 5, meaning they face catastrophic hunger and starvation. This emergency is only likely to get even worse, with forecasts now predicting that October could bring an unprecedented fifth consecutive failed rainy season. Already, nearly 920,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in search of food and water.
Communities that Plan International work with say they are enduring the worst hunger they have experienced in their lifetimes.
Sadia Allin, Head of Mission for Plan International in Somalia and Somaliland said:
“It is devastating that we have reached the point where children in parts of Somalia are on the brink of famine. It should never have come to this. International action is needed more urgently than ever before. Children are already dying from hunger. Unless humanitarian aid is urgently and immediately stepped up, we face a situation where thousands more children will lose their lives needlessly and countless others will face other dangers and rights violations such as rape, violence and early marriage.
“As is so often the case, girls and young women will be the hardest hit by this crisis. When food is scarce, girls often eat less and they eat last. They are more likely than boys to be taken out of school to help find food, to face gender-based violence or to be married early to reduce the number of mouths their families need to feed.
“Nothing is more painful than for a mother to watch helplessly as her child is starving. We have met mothers who don’t have a single grain to feed their children and have resorted to boiling water so the child will think they have a meal. Others have married their daughters as young as 14 in exchange for help.
“We have been fearing this situation for months. We now have a very brief window of time to save as many lives as possible. We urgently need more support from donors so that we can reach more children, especially girls, and their families before it’s too late.”
Plan International Australia is calling for urgent support from the Australian Government in the form of a $150 million Famine Prevention Package to avert the worst impacts of this crisis and prevent the deaths of thousands of children.
It is feared that by the end of this year, 1.5 million Somalian children under the age of five (50% of Somali children) will be acutely malnourished, including 380,000 who are likely to be severely malnourished.
Women and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis, and together with elderly people account for nearly nine in 10 (87%) of those displaced by drought. Girls are also caught in a double crisis of hunger and violence in many places. In a recent Plan International needs assessment of 635 people in Somalia, girls and women interviewed said rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence were rising as food insecurity worsened. A third (34%) of people surveyed believe security risks – including rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage – to girls and women have increased as a result of the drought.
One 13-year-old girl living in Somalia told Plan International that her biggest fear is being sent to the city to work or being married off in exchange for money: “Whenever I see a man speaking with my mother, I get scared thinking that I am the deal.”
Plan International has been responding to the drought across the Horn of Africa since the beginning of 2022 and a red alert for hunger in eight priority countries, including Somalia, is still active. We are working urgently to reach children, especially girls, in both Somaliland and Somalia with life-saving support and continue to scale up our programmes.
“Where is the shock, where is the outrage and most importantly where is the action,” said Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena.
“We are really at the tipping point for famine and if the world does not urgently step up life-saving humanitarian assistance, we are going to see a lot of death.”
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