The number of people facing life-threatening levels of hunger worldwide without immediate humanitarian aid, is expected to rise steeply in coming weeks, the UN said on Wednesday, in a new alert about looming famine in the Horn of Africa and beyond.
NEW YORK, United States of America, September 21, 2022 – In Somalia, “hundreds of thousands are already facing starvation today with staggering levels of malnutrition expected among children under five,” warned the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).“Large-scale deaths from hunger” are increasingly likely in the east African nation, the UN agencies continued, noting that unless “adequate” help arrives, analysts expect that by December, “as many as four children or two adults per 10,000 people, will die every day”.
In addition to the emergency already unfolding in Somalia, the UN agencies flagged 18 more deeply concerning “hunger hotspots”, whose problems have been created by conflict, drought, economic uncertainty, the COVID pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Humanitarians are particularly worried for Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, where a record 970,000 people “are expected to face catastrophic hunger and are starving or projected to starve or at risk of deterioration to catastrophic conditions, if no action is taken”, the UN agencies said.
This is 10 times more than six years ago, when only two countries had populations as badly food insecure, FAO and WFP noted, in a new report.
Urgent humanitarian action is needed and at scale in all of these at-risk countries “to save lives and livelihoods” and prevent famine, the UN agencies insisted.
Harsh winter harvest
According to FAO and WFP, acute food insecurity around the world will worsen from October to January.
In addition to Somalia, they highlighted that the problem was also dire in the wider Horn of Africa, where the longest drought in over 40 years is forecast to continue, pushing people “to the brink of starvation”.
Successive failed rains have destroyed people’s crops and killed their livestock “on which their survival depends”, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, who warned that “people in the poorest countries” were most at risk from acute food security that was “rising fast and spreading across the world”.
FAO’s QU calls for massive aid scale-up
Vulnerable communities “have yet to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are suffering from the ripple effects of ongoing conflicts, in terms of prices, food and fertilizer supplies, as well as the climate emergency,” the FAO chief continued.
He insisted that “without a massively scaled-up humanitarian response” to sustain agriculture, “the situation will likely worsen in many countries in the coming months”.
Echoing that message, WFP Executive Director David Beasley appealed for immediate action to prevent people dying.
“We urgently need to get help to those in grave danger of starvation in Somalia and the world’s other hunger hotspots,” he said.
Perfect storm of problems
“This is the third time in 10 years that Somalia has been threatened with a devastating famine,” Mr. Beasley continued.
“The famine in 2011 was caused by two consecutive failed rainy seasons as well as conflict. Today we’re staring at a perfect storm: a likely fifth consecutive failed rainy season that will see drought lasting well into 2023.”
In addition to soaring food prices, those most at risk from acute food insecurity also have “severely limited opportunities” to earn a living because of the pandemic, the WFP chief explained, as relief teams brace for famine in the Somali districts of Baidoa and Burhakaba in Bay region, come October.
Below the “highest alert” countries – identified as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen – the joint FAO-WFP report notes that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kenya, the Sahel, the Sudan and Syria are “of very high concern”, in addition to newcomers the Central African Republic and Pakistan.
Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi have also been added to the list of hunger hotspot countries, joining Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
Barriers to aid
Humanitarian assistance is crucial to save lives and prevent starvation, death and the total collapse of livelihoods, FAO and WFP insist, while highlighting chronic access problems caused by “insecurity, administrative and bureaucratic impediments, movement restrictions and physical barriers” in 11 of the 19 hotspot countries.
This includes “all six of the countries where populations are facing or are projected to face starvation…or are at risk of deterioration towards catastrophic conditions”, they said.
Somalia’s latest food security analysis shows that parts of the country will face famine by October 2022 if significant funding is not urgently mobilised. This projection reflects a catastrophic humanitarian situation in Somalia where at least 1.5 million children (nearly half the total population of children) are already facing acute malnutrition, farmers can no longer feed their families due to the loss of livestock and crops, women and girls face increased gender-based violence, and over 1 million people have already been forced to flee their homes due to the drought.
Further suffering and loss of life must urgently be prevented, not only in Somalia, but in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, where interconnected factors including drought, inflation, and conflict are pushing millions of people towards catastrophic levels of hunger. Just over a decade since more than 250,000 Somalis died from preventable famine — half of whom died before the famine was officially declared — the international community must immediately disperse funding that enables humanitarian organisations to deliver cash, food, safe water and other lifesaving services to people whose lives now depend on it.
While important funding contributions by the U.S. government and other donors have been made in recent months, substantially more is needed from more corners of the globe to match the current scale of needs in the Horn of Africa. The quality of funding is also crucial. As it currently stands, the funding supplied is insufficiently flexible or predictable, and does not flow directly to the actors best placed to respond quickly and cost-effectively: international, national, and local non-government organisations (NGOs). The majority of resources mobilised for the Horn of Africa has been received by UN agencies so far, and I/NGOs face serious barriers in accessing and operationalising the funds on the ground. In Somalia, only 20% of funding was received by INGOs, and a mere 2% was directed to local NGOs. It is time for other donors to share responsibility, ensuring that funding is predictable, flexible and delivered directly to NGOs working in the region.
Humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa will continue to grow into 2023. Forecasts indicate a fifth consecutive failed rainy season in the coming months, and recovery from drought will take time. In order to effectively avert famine in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya and prevent a protracted hunger crisis in the region, we, the undersigned organisations, call on global donors to:
It is unacceptable for the international community to delay action until a famine is officially declared.
Famine is not a natural disaster, but the result of lack of political will, a consequence of inaction. Any chance at preventing further deaths, widespread illness, protection concerns and displacement depends on the immediate disbursement of funding, directly to NGOs, to ensure quick, life-saving assistance for millions across the Horn of Africa.
Action Against Hunger
Danish Refugee Council East Africa & Great Lakes
International Rescue Committee
Norwegian Refugee Council Somalia
NEXUS Platform Somalia
Save Somali Women and Children
Save the Children
Social-life and Agricultural Development Organization (SADO)
Wajir South Development Association (WASDA)
World Vision Somalia
Famine is now projected in several districts of the Bay region of Somalia from October to December, unless resources can be secured to sustain and expand the scale-up of humanitarian assistance.
MOGADISHU, Somalia, September 5, 2022 – In Somalia, the United Nation World Food Programme is delivering life-saving assistance to more people than ever before, reaching 3.7 million people with relief and over 300,000 with nutrition support – but famine is now an imminent reality unless immediate and drastic action is taken.
With the country gripped by a devastating drought and forecasts of an unprecedented fifth consecutive failed rainy season, famine is now projected in several districts of the Bay region of Somalia from October to December, unless resources can be secured to sustain and expand the scale-up of humanitarian assistance.
“We know from experience that we cannot wait for a formal declaration of famine to act. Even before we first warned of the risk of famine, we were working to scale up our life-saving support in Somalia as far as resources have allowed. Since April, we have more than doubled the number of people we are supporting with humanitarian assistance, reaching record numbers in Somalia,” said Margot van der Velden, WFP Director of Emergencies, speaking from Mogadishu.”But the drought crisis is still deteriorating and famine is closer than ever. The world must respond now, while we still have a chance to prevent catastrophe.”
Additional information for journalists:
Famine is now projected between October and December in the Baidoa and Burkhaba districts and displaced populations in Baidoa town of Somalia’s Bay region, unless humanitarian aid is scaled up. The last famine in Somalia, in 2011-12, killed over a quarter of a million people – and while the scale of humanitarian assistance is much larger now than it was then, the scale of need is also much greater.
According to the last official national update, close to half the population of Somalia were facing acute food insecurity in June. The situation has worsened since then, and updated figures are expected in coming days.
The hunger crisis in Somalia is primarily the result of a drought of historic severity. Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed and forecasts for the fifth are poor. This is compounding the impact of other recurrent climate shocks, coupled with conflict and instability that exacerbates hunger and restricts humanitarian access.
Food prices in Somalia were already rising sharply due to drought-induced livestock deaths and poor harvests. They soared even higher following the crisis in Ukraine. In June, the average cost for a household to meet its basic food needs was at its highest in five years.
Without waiting for a declaration of famine, WFP has scaled up humanitarian assistance to unprecedented levels in Somalia, despite the very limited resources available – especially in the early stages of the drought crisis.
In July 2022, WFP reached 3.7 million people in Somalia with life-saving relief assistance – more than double the number in April, when WFP and the UN first warned of the risk of famine, and the most ever reached by WFP in Somalia in a single month. We also reached over 300,000 people with treatment for malnutrition.
We are working to increase this still further in coming months, to reach 4.5 million people with relief and 470,000 with nutrition treatment.
WFP is the largest humanitarian agency in Somalia, with 12 offices across the country providing coverage in every state. We are in ongoing collaboration with United Nations agencies, all levels of government, partners and donors to push assistance still further into the most challenging areas.
WFP’s massive scale-up has largely been made possible thanks to timely support from the United States. But the broader international community must act now to enable us to sustain and expand this scale-up, including in hard-to-reach areas – such as the Bay region, where famine is now projected.
“BREAKING: Hundreds of Ethiopian troops and vehicles have crossed the border of Somalia into the town of Dolow in Gedo. These troops will open bases in Dolow and Beledhawo to support the Gedo Regional Administration” (The Daily Jubba, 06.08.2022).
Yesterday it was reported that the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) entered and deployed itself in the Gedo region of the Jubaland State. There been no announcement or memorandums officially published from either party. There has been official communication from the Federal Member State (FMS) of Jubaland. Neither has Villa Somalia or any of the Federal Government of Somalia spoken out on it either. Lastly, it has been silent from the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia or the ENDF as well.
This is just troubling as the neighbour here is practically “invading” and occupying parts of border territories of Somalia without any concern. Especially, when we cannot know the mandate, mission or the goals of the operation. This is interfering and not respecting the territorial integrity. The Ethiopian government would have gone to war if the Sudanese Armed Forces went out of the contested areas around the border and did similar acts in the Tigray region. Therefore, this is questionable at best.
We know the Al-Shabab and the conflict with them has spiralled out lately. There been skirmishes on the border and the ENDF has defended it’s territories in the Ogaden (Somali) Region. That has been established and known about. As yet another conflict the ENDF has to deal with and use it’s capacity to take control over.
Some has stated and wondered why the new Somali President hasn’t visited Addis Ababa and such. He has been elsewhere in the Horn of Africa and visited allies. However, he never went to Ethiopia and visited Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. There been talks and rumours speculating that there been a fallout after Abiy lost his ally Farmaajo. Therefore, the recent act seems possibly like a revenge or a retaliation. Also, as the Al-Shabaab suddenly attacked Ethiopia too. It is all coincidently happening as the new Somali President is being in-charge.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has to both look into the leadership in Jubaland State and the Gedo region. If they allowed this with or without prior consent from the regional leadership. Secondly, the Villa Somalia needs to diplomatically establish why Ethiopian forces did enter and such. This is a clear indication that Mogadishu and Addis Ababa has lot of trouble brewing between them.
Abiy has possibly started another proxy-war and does so possibly by being allowed by regional leadership to enter. That is showing a lack of coordination and clear-cut policies of the Villa Somalia. They are showing weakness instead of strength. The neighbour is taking advantage of fragile and porous borders. In such a manner, that the integrity and the sovereignty doesn’t matter to it.
The next few days will be interesting. Especially to see how the new administration in Mogadishu takes it and acts. Because, this is happening on their turf and on their territory. The ENDF is the outsider and certainly has a questionable task to explain why they are there…
This will be monitored and followed. Since the signs are worrying and the air-silence isn’t making things any better. Peace.