MOGADISHU, Somalia (Caasimada Online) – A new report revealed that an estimated 43,000 people died during Somalia’s worst drought in 2022, with children under five years old accounting for nearly half of the fatalities.
This is the first official death toll announced since the drought severely impacted the Horn of Africa.
The study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and released Monday by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Agency predicts that at least 18,000 to 34,000 more individuals will die within the first half of 2023.
The hardest-hit areas include Bay and Bakool in southwest Somalia, as well as the capital city of Mogadishu, where displaced persons have sought refuge.
The looming threat of famine
According to the United Nations resident coordinator in Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, “The risk of famine remains.”
Famine is characterized by the extreme lack of food and a significant death rate from outright starvation or malnutrition, combined with diseases like cholera.
To declare a formal famine, data must show that over a fifth of households face extreme food gaps, and more than 30% of children suffer from acute malnutrition. Over two out of every 10,000 individuals are dying daily.
While the UN and its partners have not declared a formal famine in Somalia for the time being, they describe the situation as “extremely critical.” In the country alone, over six million people are experiencing hunger.
Comparisons to the 2011 famine
Some humanitarian and climate officials have warned that the current trends are worse than those observed during the 2011 famine in Somalia, which claimed the lives of a quarter-million people.
Professor Francesco Checchi of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told journalists that the death rate had been increasing as 2022 drew to a close.
Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya are grappling with a sixth consecutive failed rainy season.
Rising global food prices, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and millions of livestock deaths due to climate change and insecurity exacerbate the situation.
As Somalia continues to battle thousands of fighters from al-Qaida’s East Africa affiliate, al-Shabab, the UN migration agency reports a record high of 3.8 million displaced people.
Last month’s food security assessment revealed that nearly half a million children in Somalia would likely be severely malnourished this year.
However, many humanitarian officials say the world’s attention has shifted elsewhere.
During a January briefing in Mogadishu, the UN resident coordinator informed visiting US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, that “Many of the traditional donors have washed their hands and focused on Ukraine.”