There’s a new humanitarian crisis on the horizon in Somalia; and it’s threatening to leave at least 2 million people in the East African country on the brink of starvation.
Aid agencies issued a warning last week that the country hasn’t yet received enough aid to help its citizens put food on the table.
Meanwhile, it’s reported, an additional 3 million people aren’t guaranteed at least one meal daily.
Changes in the weather patterns have caused Somalia’s 2019 rainy season, which usually lasts three months between April and June, to be erratic — and it’s believed to the driest rainy season in more than 35 years.
The warning from aid agencies comes two years after the country, one of the poorest in the world, faced drought and food shortages as a result of climate change.
Mustapha Tahir, the Somalia director of relief organisation, Islamic Relief, wrote in the Guardian last month: “Aid agencies need more funding, and not just for immediate assistance. With the climate crisis increasing these kinds of events in frequency and intensity, we could be in this exact same situation next year, the year after, and on and on.”
Aid organisations and the United Nations say the country needs $1 billion to mitigate the effects of the drought. But so far, less than half of this amount has been raised.
George Conway, the acting humanitarian coordinator for Somalia at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said: “The food insecurity situation is now extremely concerning with potentially disastrous consequences for the 2.2 million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity.”
He said that with the season harvest expected to be 50% less than the average. The situation is compounded by the existing food insecurity, and other effects of the drought.
Conway said this drought, along with the previous ones, is a sign of what the future holds for Somalia.
This sentiment was echoed by the Somalia’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hamza Said Hamza.
“While it is critical to respond to today’s urgent life-saving needs, it is equally important that we build community resilience, invest in long-term development, and strengthen the capacity of Somalia to withstand future shocks,” said Hamza. “Not every drought needs to lead to catastrophe.”
Somalia is one of the most unstable countries in the world. Civil war broke out in 1990 that resulted in the destruction of the capital city, Mogadishu.
The city has been bombed several times over the years, destroying schools and healthcare facilities, while also leading to the displacement of more than 2 million people.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, an estimated 73% Somalians live in poverty as a result of the conflict.
And while the country has been recovering from the effects of the war in recent years, it is still grappling with terrorism.
Somalia is the base of terror organisation, al-Shabaab, which continues to cause instability through suicide bombings and other violent attacks in Mogadishu and other parts of the country.
The instability created by the violence, and now the drought, has led to severe internal displacement. In 2018 alone, 320,000 people fled their homes as a result of insecurity caused by conflict.
Sharifo Ali Mohamud, 30, was forced to flee her home town in Middle Shabelle in February this year. It’s one of the villages that has been hit hardest by the drought.
“The drought hit our village,” she told the Guardian. “We used to grow maize on the farm but it became dry. We did not have anything to eat. Then the fighting started.”
She said returning to her village isn’t an option for her at the moment. “We don’t get enough water and food and [if] I return to my village, I am afraid the harsh drought condition will be bitter.”
Richard Crothers, Somalia country director at the International Rescue Committee, has called on the international community to rally behind relief efforts in the country.
He said: “The international community must scale up its response…now, or many in Somalia, especially children under five, will die from starvation.”