Photo: NRC

NGOs warn of possible famine in Somalia as drought worsens, urgent action required

Published 07. Apr 2022
NRC has joined more than 60 NGOs in a joint letter to the United Nations Secretary General, warning of possible famine and calling for greater support for the crisis.

With warnings of a famine increasing and international attention elsewhere, Somalia’s worst drought in decades continues to escalate. Almost 4.5 million people face life-threatening water and food shortages, as well as loss of livestock and incomes.

Tragically, these conditions have created a displacement crisis, with almost 700,000 people driven from their homes since the start of last year.

Conditions have reached a critical point, and urgent support is needed. In this joint letter, the NGO community globally and in Somalia highlight their shared concerns, noting:

"We, the Country Directors of national and international humanitarian agencies working in Somalia, are writing to express our deepest concern at the possibility of famine in Somalia in 2022. The humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly, with about 4.5 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance due to the worsening drought conditions. Moreover, weather experts forecast unprecedented fourth consecutive below-average rains during the long rainy season of April to June across most of the country.

"More than 1.4 million children, nearly half of the country’s under-five population, are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition with 329,500 of them likely to be severely malnourished. According to UNICEF, for, “a severely acutely malnourished child, or severely wasted child, the risk of them dying from diseases such as measles or diarrhoea is 11 times higher than for a well-nourished child.” The number of people displaced internally by drought since the start of 2021 has increased to more than 670,000, including 425,000 this year, many arriving in urban areas, congesting already overpopulated IDP camps. There are already an estimated 2.9 million IDPs in Somalia and total drought displacement may reach 1.4 million by mid-2022 if no emergency aid is delivered.

"What we are now seeing is impending famine similar to that which occurred in 2010/2011 in which more than a quarter of a million people died - including 133,000 children under the age of five. Although some donors have committed to fund Somalia’s Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) which seeks US$1.5 billion, not even 4% of funding required to meet Somalia’s humanitarian needs have been allocated. Like the novel coronavirus, which had impacted many of Somali households, the Ukraine crisis has driven inflation and rising costs in Somalia, particularly for food and energy, at a time when families are already incredibly desperate.

"With limited resources, we are doing our best to meet the needs of those affected, including through emergency water trucking, food security activities, and treatment of acute and severe malnutrition.

"However, the international community has not yet grasped the urgency of the situation, which is deteriorating fast. We are concerned that Somalia’s possible famine is not high enough on the list of international disaster responses with focus now on the Ukrainian crisis. We request you to urge donors and the Member States to commit additional resources to enable immediate scale-up of humanitarian response in Somalia to avert a possible famine and save lives."

Read the full letter and signatory list: