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Thousands in Somalia face starvation amid severe drought, says report

Thousands of people in Somalia face starvation and death in the next few months if the international community does not mobilise resources to fight a lingering famine in the African state, says a new United Nations report. 

A severe drought, which has triggered shortages of food, can lead to death of between 18,000 and 34,000 people, including children, from January to June 2023 period, says the study jointly done by Mogadishu and the UN. 

The troubling estimates are based on the death of 43,000 people from drought-related problems last year. 

Experts had warned about a humanitarian disaster even before the study was released on March 20. 

The Somali government believes it can handle famine but the authors of the report doubt the country has the resources to tackle such a large-scale emergency. 

“With these estimates, the report suggests that the current crisis is far from over and is likely to be more severe than the 2017–2018 drought,” it said.

Children at risk

Last year, the highest death rate was recorded in the Bay, Bakool and Banadir areas in south-central Somalia.

Health Minister Ali Hadji Adam Abubakar said he is concerned about the scale and impact of the deepening food crisis. 

“At the same time, we are optimistic that if we can sustain our ongoing and scaled-up health and nutrition actions, and humanitarian response to save lives and protect the health of our vulnerable, we can push back the risk of famine forever,” he said.

Hassan Saney, World Food Programme’s Somalia representative said that the “children are facing acute malnutrition and are at most risk of dying.”

The drought and famine have forced people to move to other cities and regions. About 1.42 million Somalians have been internally displaced due to the drought, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

What’s the plan?

Recurring droughts have wiped out millions of acres of cultivable land, and livestock that locals depend on for food and income.

To deal with the crisis, the UN and its stakeholders announced ‘The Somalia Emergency Action Plan’ on Tuesday.

Wafaa Saeed, UNICEF’s Somalia representative, said that strengthening health and nutrition services and expanding immunisation campaigns remain key areas to avoid more deaths. 

Polio, a disease which can leave children paralysed for life and which has largely been eradicated in the rest of the world, is on the rise, said WHO Somalia representative Mamunur Rahman Malik. 

Somalia, a country of 17 million people, has an arid climate that often faces high temperatures and sees little rainfall, leading to droughts.

Climate crisis has exacerbated the situation in Somalia where security concerns often hinder transportation of food and relief goods to far-flung areas. 

Several local armed groups have pledged allegiance to terrorist organisations such as al Qaeda and Daesh. 

Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation, Al Shabab, is one of the most active armed groups in the region, and has been behind deadly attacks on both security forces and civilians. 

These have in the past damaged water wells and attacked vehicles carrying food and basic goods.

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