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As the UN doubles the funding target needed to deliver its Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia this year, new figures show that nearly 700,000 people have been displaced by hunger in the country, which is facing the most catastrophic drought since 1950.

Thursday, 11 May 2017 - 6:42am

This is on top of more than one million people already displaced in Somalia, where attendees of today’s London Somalia Conference are urgently trying to prevent an outbreak of famine.

The number of people severely affected by the drought has increased by half a million people since the beginning of the year, currently 3.2 million people face emergency levels of food insecurity. Across the country an estimated three-quarters of all livestock have died, destroying livelihoods and leaving families without one of their main food sources. When families are subsequently forced to leave home, a new crisis emerges, where their needs increase from needing food and water, to children also dropping out of school and requiring additional protection.

In addition, a Cholera / Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) outbreak remains a huge concern, as it can kill a vulnerable child quickly if left untreated. If children already suffer from severe acute malnutrition, they are nine times more likely to die if Cholera / AWD takes hold. A similar deadly trend was established in Somalia during the 2011 famine, when the biggest child killers were diarrhoea and measles. Save the Children is expecting to see high child mortality rates in the weeks ahead if the risk of Cholera / AWD is not urgently tackled. The charity’s Emergency Health Unit has been deployed to the epicentre of the Cholera outbreak, in Baidoa, to respond to the outbreak.

Lessons have been learned by the international community since 2011, the response has been earlier and smarter, with investment in cash transfer programmes, which are proven to be the more effective type of aid programme to reach the most vulnerable. In 2011, funding was provided for the famine, but dried up quickly immediately afterwards.

Kevin Watkins, CEO Save the Children, said:

“Somalia continues to drift towards an avoidable famine. Without early and decisive action to support and tackle the desperate nutrition, health and water needs of vulnerable communities, more children will become severely malnourished – and lives will be lost. There are some disturbing similarities between today and 2011 when the world said ‘Never Again’.

“Thanks to the generosity of the British public and early action by the UK Government, Save the Children has reached 1 million people affected by the drought since February. However, the international community continues to fall far short of the effort required.

“Three weeks ago I met a mother who had walked 90 miles to get her four-year-old son to an emergency clinic, where he was treated for malnutrition and pneumonia. Her son survived. But many lives which could be saved are being lost as a result of inadequate funding.

“The twin challenge today is to increase emergency relief while investing in the health, water, nutrition and education systems needed to help Somalia escape the cycle of drought and hunger. Restoring Somalia’s relations with the World Bank, cancelling the country’s debt, and providing immediate financial support from the World Bank’s International Development Association facility is critical.”

Beyond funding, the situation in Somalia could significantly worsen if insecurity increases and humanitarian access is compromised. The recent announcement of increased military activity could have disastrous impacts on the ability of the Somali people to access life-saving services, at a time when Somalia is at the tipping point of famine.


Notes to Editors:

The London Somalia Conference

In 2011 Somalia was chronically unstable and ungoverned, with large parts of the country controlled by armed groups. Famine had claimed the lives of a quarter of a million people. Piracy was rife, costing global trade $7 billion that year alone. In response, the UK brought together the international community at the first London Somalia Conference in 2012.

The Humanitarian Response Plan

This revised Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia seeks a total of $1.5 billion for humanitarian response in 2017. More than $470 million has already been made available against the HRP, with additional $202 million pledged or outside of the appeal. This leaves a gap of at least $830 million for the remainder of the year to further scale-up or sustain lifesaving assistance, protection and livelihood support for 5.5 million people.