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Credit: Bhanu Bhatnagar/Save the Children

Dead camel in northern Somalia

Innovative virtual reality film provides stark insight into life in drought-affected Somalia


Save the Children Ambassador Sir Mo Farah describes his heartbreak as new survey shows 2,700 Somalis are displaced by climate change every day


Mogadishu, July 23, 2018 –  ‘Famine’ is one of a series of four immersive films highlighting the tangible consequences of climate change. Today, Save the Children is launching this virtual reality (VR) film which transports the viewer to the parched land of northern Somalia. The charity partnered with Participant Media and Condition One, who filmed and produced This is Climate Change, a critically-acclaimed VR film series that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The film is now available for media outlets from today to host on their websites (see embed code in notes to editors).   

'Famine' was shot in drought-devastated communities in Puntland, northern Somalia, in 2017 and tells the stories of a camel herder, a grieving mother, and a doctor who stops at nothing to save the lives of those starving babies.

Using advanced 3D 360 stereoscopic technology, the film takes audiences inside a Save the Children-supported intensive care ward for severely malnourished children.

Save the Children Ambassador Sir Mo Farah who was born in Somalia and is a strong advocate for his country of birth, said: “It breaks my heart to see children suffering in these drought-hit areas of Somalia. Climate change is affecting the poorest communities year after year – from drought, to floods, to conflict – and these people are enduring so much.  

"I am a father of four kids and I can only begin to imagine how painful it must be to listen to your children begging for food and water as they become weaker by the day.  These youngsters are especially vulnerable, and they shouldn’t have to suffer.”

The film’s release coincides with survey data from Save the Children and Action Against Hunger, gathered in March and published today which found that one in five children in these displacement settlements is suffering from malnutrition.[1]

Currently there are 2.6 million displaced people in Somalia, the majority forced from their homes because of the recent drought, including half a million this year alone.  An average of 2,777 people are being displaced every day in 2018[2] after losing their crops, livestock and livelihoods. 

“Whilst the drought is over, the battle to save lives is not.” said Timothy Bishop, Country Director for Save the Children Somalia.  “Malnutrition remains a major concern, because rain is not an immediate treatment for malnutrition. For every failed rainy season, communities tell us they need at least two normal rains to harvest crops and for livestock herds to regenerate. Unfortunately, floods have now swept away many of the new crops and killed many of the remaining goats.”

“Somalia is experiencing a complete polarization of weather, from the worst drought, to the worst floods in 50 years,” Bishop added. “This is climate change in action and its devastating impact meted out on the most vulnerable. It’s outrageous that Somalia has the world’s worst child death rate — 13 percent of children do not live to see their fifth birthday.” 

“This Is Climate Change uses the unique immersive qualities of virtual reality to show the tangible impact of a global issue that can sometimes feel remote,” says Elise Pearlstein, Senior Vice President of Documentary Film and Television for Participant Media. “Hopefully through the series and the episode ‘Famine’, people will be compelled to learn more, and most importantly, to get involved.”

Save the Children is committed to working together to sustain life-saving assistance for children and families affected by drought and flood.  Some 5.4 million people need humanitarian assistance.  The aid agency is calling on donors to invest in long-term resilience building to help Somali communities better withstand the shocks of disasters and bounce back much quicker.



EMBED CODE FOR VR FILM AVAILABLE (see notes to editors)



For media visits or interviews with Save the Children or the VR film producers contact:

Nairobi: Gemma Parkin, +254 743 145 305, G.Parkin@savethechildren.org.uk

London: Bhanu Bhatnagar, +44 7467 096788, B.Bhatnagar@savethechildren.org.uk

Out-of-hours: +44 7831 650409, Media@savethechildren.org.uk


 Notes to Editors

  • Media outlets can embed ‘Famine’ onto their sites by using the following embed code: <iframe width="540" height="270" src="//player.with.in/index.html?id=10030" frameborder="0" allow="vr" allowfullscreen allowvr></iframe>
  • This Is Climate Change-Famine premiered to critical acclaim at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It also featured at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in the UK and AFI Doc Fest in Washington DC. It can be viewed on the WITHIN app, which is available on iOS, Android and all major headsets. Simply download the WITHIN app and then view the film in 360 degrees, or if you have a headset, in full virtual reality. 
  • This Is Climate Change is a four-part VR documentary series. Besides Famine, other episodes include Melting Ice, Fire and Feast
  • This Is Climate Change, produced by Participant Media in association with Condition One, was created and directed by Danfung Dennis and Eric Strauss, executive produced by Jeff Skoll, Elise Pearlstein, Kathy Davidov and Casey Brown, and produced by Diana El-Osta and Catherine Yrisarri. Virtual and augmented reality distribution company WITHIN will distribute the series on its platform.
  • Save the Children and Action Against Hunger conducted SMART surveys to quantify prevalence of acute malnutrition among populations in ten regions of Somalia and Somaliland in March 2018.  The surveys assessed prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among targeted populations and found GAM of between 9.9 and 20.5 percent across the 10 districts. Prevalence of 15 per cent indicates a nutrition emergency; prevalence below 5 per cent is considered acceptable.
  • Forty-five thousand children between six months and five years of age are malnourished across the 10 districts, with 90,000 children at risk of malnutrition.

[1] The joint Nutrition Survey by Action Against Hunger and Save the Children conducted in March 2018 (verified by the Somalia Nutrition Cluster) was published 5 June 2018 and found:

Global Acute Malnutrition rates by district:  

Mataban IDP settlements: 20.5%, Dollow IDP settlements: 19.3%, Garowe IDP settlements: 15.1%, Galkayo IDP settlements: 17.1%, Mogadishu IDP settlements: 16.3%, Iskushuban: 11.5%, Beletweyne: 15.9%, Kismayo 11.9%, Cadaado: 9.9%, Burao: 13.7%

An additional nutrition survey is being conducted following the recent rains and will be published in the comings months.

[2] 500,000 displaced in 2018 so far. Divided by 6 months, divided by 30 days = 2,777 people a day. http://www.fsnau.org/downloads/fsnau-fews-net-revised-april-june-2018-ipc-figures-somalia-22-may-201

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