In a single hospital in Somalia, more than two dozen children have died of hunger in the past two months alone.
Dr Yahye Abdi Garun has watched emaciated parents stumble in from rural areas gripped by the driest drought in the Horn of Africa region in decades. And yet, no humanitarian aid arrives.
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, a donor who was preparing to give $500,000 to a Somali aid group told its executive director Hussein Kulmiye it was redirecting the money to help Ukrainians instead.
The war in Ukraine has abruptly drawn millions of dollars away from other crises, more social workers say. Somalia, facing a food shortage largely driven by the war, might be the most vulnerable.
The $2.2bn appeal for Ukraine is almost 80 percent funded, according to United Nations data, an “exceptional” level for any crisis at the midway point of the year, said Angus Urquhart, humanitarian and crisis lead for the Development Initiatives consultancy. The smaller appeal for Somalia is just 30 percent funded.
And now, as Somalis flee the drought and fill more than 500 camps in the city of Baidoa, aid workers are making “horrific” choices to help one camp and ignore 10 others, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland said, telling The Associated Press he is “angry and ashamed”.
Its aid funding is less than half of last year’s level even as Western donors have sent more than $1.7bn to respond to the war in Europe. Yemen, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Palestinian territories are similarly affected.
His group’s Ukraine appeal was fully funded within 48 hours, but that for Somalia has seen about a quarter of the funds needed.
This year’s global shift in money and attention is perhaps most urgently felt in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia and Kenya, where some areas could be declared in famine within weeks.
The United States Agency for International Development says regional authorities have not seen anything on this scale in well over 100 years. Millions of livestock, families’ source of wealth and nutrition, have died.
The White House acknowledged the problem in a June 28 statement on global food security, saying that “while the entire globe will continue to be affected by Russia’s actions, the most immediate needs will present in the Horn of Africa”, where Somalia once sourced 90 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine but now struggles to find supplies amid soaring prices.