Somalia’s “rapidly worsening” drought has left more than two million people facing severe food and water shortages, the United Nations has warned.
The Horn of Africa is now “on the verge of a fourth consecutive failed rainfall season”, according to a joint statement by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Somali government released late on Thursday.
“About 2.3 million people in 57 of 74 districts – nearly 20 per cent of the population in the affected districts – are ravaged by serious water, food and pasture shortages as water pans and boreholes have dried up,” the statement said, adding that climate change was one of the main drivers.
More than 80 percent of Somalia is estimated to be experiencing severe drought conditions.
The dire situation has already forced an estimated 100,000 people to flee their homes in search of food, water and pasture for their livestock.
In recent years, natural disasters – not conflict – have been the main driver of displacement in Somalia, a war-torn nation that ranks among the world’s most vulnerable to climate change.
Somalia has experienced more than 30 climate-related hazards since 1990, including 12 droughts and 19 floods.
“The frequency and severity of climate-related hazards is increasing,” the statement said.
Adam Abdelmoula, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the country, said “a perfect storm is brewing in Somalia”. He called for urgent action to prevent famine conditions from taking hold.
Somalia’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Khadija Diriye warned that families could starve to death as they lose their livestock and slide deeper into poverty.
“I am particularly worried about children, women, the elderly and disabled people who continue to bear the brunt of Somalia’s humanitarian crisis,” she said.
The Juba and Shabelle river levels are low and are expected to decrease further in the coming months. Most berkads – small water reservoirs – and shallow wells have dried up, leaving the communities to rely on boreholes which are far apart and often have low yields and poor quality water.
Crop failure is expected in most agricultural areas. Drought conditions are forecast to worsen in December 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.
In 2017, a severe drought affected more than six million people in Somalia and caused a catastrophic humanitarian situation among pastoral and agricultural populations.