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About half of children under 5 in Somalia facing malnutrition as aid averts famine – for now

MOGADISHU, 1 March 2023 – About 1.8 million children aged under five are still expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in Somalia this year with the emergency far from over even though the risk of famine has been averted for the time being, Save the Children said on Wednesday.

The United Nations last year warned of a looming famine in Somalia which is facing its worst drought in about four decades after five failed rainy seasons, combined with rising food prices and ongoing conflict, fuelled concerns of a repeat of 2011 when about 260,000 people died.

But new data this week showed the delivery of humanitarian aid and some rain had averted famine in most parts of the country, at least until June.

An anticipated sixth consecutive below-average rainy season from March to June is expected to reduce household income and food supplies further, with at least 6.5 million people –nearly 40% of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Save the Children said the total number of children facing malnutrition has not changed since last December although the number projected to be severely malnourished had fallen slightly to about 480,000 from 513,500, with children continuing to die. 

 Save the Children is calling for urgent international funding to prevent the further loss of life, warning the risk of famine remains if there is poor rainfall and if humanitarian assistance doesn’t reach the most vulnerable people, including displaced populations, and people living in areas which are hard to reach owing to conflict.  

Save the Children’s Country Director in Somalia, Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, said:

“Somalia has reached a tipping point. The situation remains extremely serious, as the country is expecting a sixth season of below-average rainfall from March to June, and exceptionally high food prices.

“While humanitarian efforts have so far averted a possible famine, the number of hungry and malnourished children across the country remains alarmingly high. A global response is stillneeded to address immediate humanitarian needs and implement lasting solutions to hunger.

“We are concerned that the increase in children experiencing acute malnutrition coincides with a reduction in humanitarian funding for Somalia and we’re warning of deadly consequences if funds are withdrawn.”

Save the Children is calling on the UK Government to invest an additional £70 million to help treat one million severely malnourished children across the region, as well as taking the lead and working with world leaders to tackle the root causes of this crisis.

A formal famine declaration is based on technical decisions around three thresholds – that at least 20% of the population is affected, with about one in three children  acutely malnourished and two people in every 10,000 are dying daily - as well as requiring political agreement. 

Save the Children teams are working around the clock to help children and their families survive and cope with the extreme effects of the drought and food crisis. We are providing emergency water supplies, treating malnourished children, supporting education systems so that children do not miss vital learning while displaced by drought, running health facilities, and providing cash and livelihood support to the most vulnerable.

Save the Children has been working in Somalia and Somaliland since 1951 and has programmes throughout the country which support children’s healthcare, education and food needs.  In 2022, Save the Children provided humanitarian aid to about 4.3 million people - including about 2.5 million children.


For more information, please contact:

media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409