In a powerful open letter to world leaders, Somali children are calling for the international community to urgently find a solution to the climate crisis as Somalia edges closer to famine.
The letter, written by six children aged between 12 and 15, describes how they have been affected by the prolonged drought, the worst the region has faced in five decades. The children describe the impact that hunger is having on families in their community, with some children unable to leave their homes or suffering with deadly diseases as a result of malnutrition.
“It’s hard not to worry if your family doesn't cook food or when you see your neighbours suffer,” they said.
“If you haven’t eaten, it’s hard to understand anything. If your family have no food to give you, you’re not able to play, run or concentrate.”
In an emotional plea, the child signatories are urging World Leaders to “stand with us during this time” so that “one day children will grow up in Somalia free of this problem.”
“We are asking that pollution be curbed and controlled. And the release of harmful smoke be monitored. Droughts should be controlled, and Somali children should not be forgotten,” they said.
Latest UN data shows that half of the 15 million population of Somalia are facing acute food shortages, with more than 300,000 people expected to be in famine-like conditions by the end of the year.
Early international intervention during Somalia’s severe drought in 2017 averted a repeat of the 2011 catastrophe, which killed 260,000 people, about half of whom were children aged under five.
Claire Sanford, Deputy Humanitarian Director at Save the Children UK, said: “These children are bearing witness to the heart-breaking impact that climate induced hunger is having on the most vulnerable in their community.
“They understand better than anyone the dire situation facing families in Somalia. Malnutrition and death rates are soaring, children are too hungry to leave their homes, they cannot concentrate, play, or go to school. These children are determined to make their voices heard. They won’t let this crisis be forgotten.
“This letter is a desperate call to arms and we urge world leaders to listen. Without urgently needed funds and lasting action to tackle climate change, this year’s drought in Somalia could be even more devastating than the famine a decade ago.
“The UK took the lead in helping to avert widespread catastrophe in the Horn of Africa five years ago, but has lacked the political will to respond soon enough this time around.
“Save the Children is calling on the UK to keep the voices and rights of Somali children front of mind and act on this open letter. An urgent investment of £70 million could help treat one million acutely malnourished children.
“It could also bring together experts to address the barriers stopping treatment from reaching children and tackling the root causes of this crisis.”
Save the Children is working to help affected communities in Somalia cope with the immediate humanitarian effects of drought. The aid agency is 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.
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Full Open Letter
Dear World Leaders,
As Somali children, we are submitting our request to world leaders to address climate change problem as soon as possible so that children won't feel hungry.
We hope that one day children will grow up in Somalia free of this problem because we have experienced the effects of the drought, and it has been difficult for us and our family. If you haven’t eaten, it’s hard to understand anything. If your family have no food to give you, you’re not able to play, run or concentrate.
The shortage of food has also caused children not to be able to go to school. If they go to school, they are not able to understand the lessons well or see properly.
Some Somali children are not even in a position to leave their homes. They are affected by polio, diarrhoea or vomiting, which are all caused by malnutrition .
We are sincerely pleading for these children to be supported and given the help they need.
We want you, as world leaders, to show commitment and find a solution to the recurring droughts so that Somali children can go back to school.
We are very sad about the food shortage that is happening in our country. We hope that Somali children can have a bright future, that there will be peace for them, but most importantly, we ask that you stand with us during this time.
Ladan* age 15
Najama* age 13
Salma* age 13
Nastex* age 13
Ali* age 14
Adam* age 12
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