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Horn of Africa

Trócaire warns of devastating humanitarian disaster unfolding in Somalia and the Horn of Africa

“We must not wait for famine to be declared to act”

Photo - Trócaire Photo - Trócaire

Trócaire today warned of a rapid deterioration in the food crisis in drought-ravaged Somalia, saying the international community must not wait for famine to be declared to adequately respond.

Trócaire Country Director Manager for Somalia, Paul Healy, said the situation is the worst in living memory, with the number of people experiencing acute hunger already surpassing the number affected in the famine of 2011, when more than a quarter of a million people died.  One in six people in the East African country are now facing extreme hunger.

The crisis is being replicated across the Horn and East Africa, including Ethiopia and South Sudan where Trócaire also operates, with one person now thought to be dying in the region every 36 seconds.

“Somalia is on the fast track towards famine, but we should not have to wait until famine is officially declared for a proper response. The international community needs to act and act now. What we are seeing on the ground is devastating. People are suffering. Children are dying.” said Mr Healy.

Mr Healy was speaking after the broadcast of a harrowing report on BBC One TV from a Trócaire hospital in Dollow, Gedo region, southern Somalia, where the aid agency provides critical health and nutrition support to over 200,000 people. The report captured the death from hunger of a two-year-old boy at the Dollow Health Referral Centre, and his subsequent burial afterwards by his family.

This was heart-breaking to witness. But this is the reality our team on the ground and the communities are facing daily. Hunger is claiming lives at an ever-increasing rate. The alarm has been sounding for months but the international community and governments have not adequately responded. How many more people need to die before the world acts?

He said climate change has wiped out crops and three million livestock have died in Somalia since mid-2021, with large parts of the country about to enter what is projected to be its fifth failed rainy season. A failed rainfall season in late 2022 would leave no prospects for recovery until at least the start of the next rainfall season in April 2023.

Mr Healy said a million people have been displaced in Somalia this year, 800,000 due to drought. “The crisis has been exacerbated in many places by conflict, and by rising food prices due in part to the war in Ukraine, and reduced supply from neighbouring countries also struggling. This has resulted in sorghum, maize and wheat prices reaching near‑record to record levels in July, beyond the reach of most poor households who depend heavily on market purchases to access food.”

Mr Healy added that women are particularly hard hit by the crisis, reducing their own food to feed their children. Across the Horn of Africa region, increasing numbers of girls are in danger of leaving school as the crisis deepens, putting them at higher risk of child marriage and FGM. The number of children at risk of dropping out of school in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to the impact of the drought has tripled in the space of three months – from 1.1. million to an estimated 3.3 million children.

Mr Healy said alarming levels of mortality and malnutrition are already occurring. “We have seen the number of malnourished children coming to our health centres in Gedo for treatment triple in recent months. “We are barely able to cope with the numbers in Gedo. Our stabilisation units are full.  It questions what value the world is putting on human lives.”

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