Somalia is experiencing its worst drought crisis in a decade, with millions going hungry and many being forced from their homes in search of food and water, according to a new report by Save the Children.
The international charity’s latest humanitarian assessment, which surveyed more than 12,000 people in 15 of Somalia’s 18 regions, said on Thursday the majority of families were going without meals on a regular basis.
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More than one-third of households included at least one person going without food over a 24-hour period. Nearly six in 10 people reported at least one person in their family had lost their source of income, largely due to the death of livestock.
Meanwhile, nearly 700,000 camels, goats, sheep and cattle died from drought-related causes over a two-month period, according to the assessment conducted in November 2021.
“The ultimate culprit is climate change,” Mohamud Mohamed, Save the Children’s country director in Somalia, said in a statement.
“Somalia has always had droughts, and Somalis have always known how to deal with them – they struggle, they lose livestock, they count their losses, and then they bounce back. But now, the gaps between droughts are shrinking. It’s a killer cycle and it’s robbing Somali children of their future.”
‘Drier than ever’
Conflict-hit Somalia ranks among the world’s most vulnerable nations to climate change. It has experienced three severe drought crises in the past decade, beginning in 2011, 2016 and 2021.
In 2011, the United Nations declared a famine in Somalia, with 3.7 million people experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity as they do not have enough to eat. This year, the latest food security projections show that 4.6 million Somalis will face crisis to emergency-level food insecurity from February to May.
Only 2.3 percent of the UN appeal for almost $1.5bn assistance to respond to the crisis has been met by donors, Save the Children said, warning that there was only “a narrow window to prevent a major humanitarian disaster in Somalia”.
Omar, a resident in Beledweyne district in southern Somalia, told the charity children were being fed one meal a day.
“We are able to survive day by day during the previous drought, but this one is drier than ever, with water being harder to find,” he said. “People might die in this drought if we can’t find help.”
Late last year, the UN warned that the dire situation had already forced an estimated 100,000 people to flee their homes in search of food, water and pasture for their livestock.
Save the Children urged the Somali government to prioritise humanitarian response and ensure the current political crisis does not obstruct humanitarian aid delivery to affected children and their families.