IRC warns of catastrophic famine looming in Somalia

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is warning that Somalia is facing its worst drought in decades, and aid agencies are struggling to secure sufficient funding to prevent a catastrophic famine. 

The IRC says at least 8.3 million people in the country are on the brink of starvation as the April-May rains are expected to be below average for the sixth consecutive season. 

According to a statement, The IRC has raised $15 million to support those affected by the food crisis. However, the growing needs outpace the resources available.

“The funding shortage comes at a time when another fifth consecutive failed rainy season has been experienced, putting more populations at risk of starvation,” warns the IRC. 

The organization also warns that although humanitarian assistance has helped to delay an official famine declaration in Somalia, “the thresholds for famine are likely to be met in April-June 2023 as current funding levels are dropping. This will push communities already on the brink of famine over the top.”

Shashwat Saraf, IRC Regional Emergency Director East Africa, says, “The current lack of an official famine declaration should not send the message that all is well in Somalia – we are already seeing people die every day from extreme hunger, malnutrition, and preventable diseases.”

“Under these conditions, households will not recover from livestock losses. Further reduction is expected; crop harvest will be limited, and an increased disease outbreak will likely occur. We urge international leaders and donors to learn from experiences of the 2011 famine where over 250,000 people died, half of who died before the official famine was declared.”

The IRC states that in the past year alone, at least 1.7 million people have been displaced by drought and conflict in Somalia. “The displaced face the double tragedy of extreme food insecurity and health crisis exacerbated by poor sanitation and water scarcity. The result at local IRC health clinics across the country has been a rise in patients with diseases like measles and cholera, as well as children suffering from acute malnutrition,” says the organization.

The IRC is calling on donor countries to increase funds that will help provide treatment for children and women with severe malnutrition, enable access to clean drinking water, and vaccinations to prevent deadly diseases like measles, cholera, and polio. “Malnourished children are at increased risk of deadly disease,” warns the organization.

The IRC urges the UN High-Level Task Force on Preventing Famine (HLTF) to prioritize the six countries at the highest risk, including Somalia. 

The organization suggests the task force’s membership should be expanded to include international financial institutions, local and international NGOs and civil society groups, the states affected by food insecurity, and leading donors like USAID and emerging donors. 

“The HLTF should focus on unlocking the political will to respond to a famine risk, mobilizing investments at scale to respond to early warning systems, and coordinating collective action across the international community,” it said. 

Since March 2022, the IRC has provided assistance to over 1.5 million people in Somalia and helped to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases by providing clean water and sanitation to over 800,000 people.

 The organization has also vaccinated over 200,000 children to prevent deadly diseases like measles, cholera, and polio. However, with the current funding shortage, the IRC’s ability to continue these life-saving efforts is in jeopardy.