Drought threatens to kill 2 million Somalis this summer

More than two million men, women and children could die of starvation in Somalia by the end of summer, between June 21 to September 23, if international aid is not sent quickly to the drought-stricken African country, says the head the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs, General Mark Lowcock.

Southern and Eastern Africa have historically been at high risk of droughts. Since the start of the 2018/2019 cropping season in October, anomalous dry conditions have developed across parts of the regions with more intense moisture deficits registered in Botswana, Namibia, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Africa.

In 2017, severe drought and conflict in East Africa left more than 37 million people severely food insecure and more than eight million people needed emergency food assistance because of the worsening drought due to climate change, according to the United Nations World Food Program.

The 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, estimates that about 820 million of the 7.6 billion people in the world suffered from chronic undernourishment, the majority of whom are in the Horn of Africa.

Undernourishment, a symptom of severe hunger, is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and severe drought, where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture and currently, and millions of people in the Horn of Africa are suffering from a prolonged drought.

The Horn of Africa is one of the most food-insecure regions in the world. More than 40 percent of the 160 million people living in the region are undernourished, with more than half (70 million) living in areas prone to extreme food shortages. Sadly, this number is higher in Somalia, where over 70 percent are undernourished and Lowcock says about $700 million is needed after a rainless season that has killed both livestock and crops in Somalia.

Of the 15 million people in Somalia, more than 3 million are struggling just to meet minimum food requirements and the shortages are about 40 percent worse this June than it was between December to March.

Mark Lowcock, who noted that the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated $45 million to cover food shortages, water and daily necessities in Somalia as well as parts of Kenya and Ethiopia affected by droughts, stated that Somalia’s humanitarian fund is currently depleted. If financial aid is delayed, the cost of saving lives on the margin of death will be much higher, and the country will need to rely on expensive, therapeutic feeding programs, he added.

“What was forecast to be an average rainy season in Somalia is now one of the driest on record in over 35 years. Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases,” said Lowcock