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Somalia is in a state of pre-famine. The country is experiencing both severe drought and violent conflict from armed groups, both of which are driving a widespread, dangerous food crisis. In 2011, when famine was officially declared under similar conditions, the world was too slow to respond and more than 250,000 people died.
“All the signs in recent months have warned us of imminent catastrophe. We need to act now. There is still time to prevent the worst for these families by deploying a large-scale response immediately,” said Regional Director of Operations for Action Against Hunger, Hajir Maalim.
Today, 3 million people, one quarter of Somalia’s population, are experiencing acute food shortages at crisis or emergency levels, and malnutrition rates among children are high.
Nearly half of the population, 6.2 million people, require humanitarian assistance. The central government is struggling to guarantee a safety net and food assistance for vulnerable families. Newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has declared the drought a national disaster.
If the rains fail season after season, crops die, animals die, and people die. Communities dependent on farming and livestock have been left with no food and no income. Rising prices for food and other essentials continue to impoverish families and jeopardize their ability to meet their daily survival needs.
Families have seen their livestock weaken and die. The surviving animals are weak and thin, making it difficult to sell them at a decent price, if at all. A few months ago, a goat could be sold at the market for about 40 dollars: today, they sell for just 15 dollars.
As water sources dry up and hygiene conditions worsen, the risk of deadly water-borne diseases such as severe diarrhea or cholera increases. Our teams have already reported 40 deaths in one village. In some areas, villagers have gathered together and pooled their meager savings to bring in water trucks, but funds are severely lacking. These water costs have quadrupled with the drought, costing an average of five to twenty dollars for 200 liters. For the vast number of people affected, who live in poverty on less than $1 a day, such a cost for one of life’s most basic needs is enormous.
Action Against Hunger has been present in Somalia since 1992, and our team of 160 staff works in five areas throughout the country.
We are shifting many of our existing programs into rapid response mode, delivering emergency food, distributing supplies of clean water, and improving sanitation to prevent outbreaks of disease. Our top priority is to provide lifesaving treatment for severely malnourished children and to protect the health of vulnerable pregnant women and nursing mothers. In the weeks ahead, we aim to reach 30,000 people with emergency screening and treatment for severe malnutrition.
We aim to scale up our response to reach more areas and meet the urgent needs of vulnerable populations closer to their homes. We are ready to assist more than 200,000 people in the coming weeks. In some areas within Somalia, Action Against Hunger is the only organization providing assistance to communities.
The ongoing conflict that helped trigger this near-famine also prevents humanitarian assistance from reaching people in need. Conflict and insecurity puts the safety of humanitarian workers—and the people they aim to help—at risk. Humanitarian actors cannot save lives and alleviate suffering without safe, unconditional access to civilians in need.
Ayan is 50 years old, and lives in the village of Qarhis. He told us: “I am sending a message to anyone who can hear my call to help us. We no longer have a farm or access to the sea to fish. We no longer have water. Our camels and goats are dying. We need help. “