About 1.8 million children aged under five are still expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in Somalia this year with the emergency far from over even though the risk of famine has been averted for the time being, Save the Children said on Wednesday.
The United Nations last year warned of a looming famine in Somalia which is facing its worst drought in about four decades after five failed rainy seasons combined with rising food prices and ongoing conflict, fuelling concerns of a repeat of 2011 when about 260,000 people died.
But new data this week said the delivery of humanitarian aid and some rain had averted famine in most parts of the country until June this year at least.
However an anticipated sixth consecutive below average rainfall season from April to June is expected to continue to suppress household food and income, with at least 6.5 million people –nearly 40% of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.
Save the Children said the total number of children facing malnutrition has not changed since last December although the number projected to be severely malnourished had slightly reduced to about 480,000 from 513,500 with children losing their lives.
Save the Children is calling for urgent international funding to prevent the further loss of life, warning that there continues to be a risk of famine if there is poor rainfall and if humanitarian assistance doesn’t reach the most vulnerable people, including displaced populations, and people living in areas which are hard to reach due to conflict.
Save the Children’s Country Director in Somalia, Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, said:
“Somalia has reached a tipping point. The situation remains extremely serious, as the country is expecting a sixth season of below-average rainfall from March to June, and exceptionally high food prices.
“While humanitarian efforts have so far averted a possible famine, the number of hungry and malnourished children across the country remains alarmingly high. A global response is still needed to address immediate humanitarian needs and implement lasting solutions to hunger.
“We are concerned that the increase in children experiencing acute malnutrition coincides with a reduction in humanitarian funding for Somalia and we’re warning of deadly consequences if funds are withdrawn.”
Save the Children is calling for more funding from the international community, so that humanitarian organisations can continue delivering life-saving aid.
A formal famine declaration is based on technical decisions around three thresholds – that at least 20% of the population is affected, with about one out of three children being acutely malnourished and two people out of 10,000 are dying daily – as well as a political agreement.
Save the Children teams are working around the clock to support children and their families survive and cope with the extreme effects of the drought and food crisis. We are 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.
Save the Children has been working in Somalia and Somaliland since 1951 and has programmes throughout the country which support children’s healthcare, education and food needs. In 2022, Save the children provided humanitarian aid to about 4.3 million people – including about 2.5 million children.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Save the Children.