The UN warns that 350,000 children in Somalia could die of starvation unless the world comes together to provide food aid to the impoverished African nation, which is in the grip of a crippling drought for the fourth year in a row, exacerbated by climate change.
“As we speak now, 1.4 million children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished, and if we do not step up our efforts, it is expected that 350,000 of them will die by the summer of this year. The situation could not be more serious than that, says Adam Abdelmoula from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “So I urge all those who are able to contribute, including the Somali diaspora, the business community, the traditional and non-traditional donors, all, to act and act now.”
Three years of successive drought have left Somalia’s largest river, Juba, almost completely dry. The shortage of water has affected an estimated 4.5 million people, many of whom live as farmers.
“Of all the droughts I have experienced in my 70 years, I have not seen anything as serious as this,” Ahmad Hassan Yarrow, a Somali resident forced from his home in search of food and water, told the UN.
In its recently released sixth assessment of the world’s climate, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that climate change and an ongoing La Niña – a climate pattern resulting in dry weather in the Horn of Africa – were to blame for the drought and soaring temperatures behind the region.
In a nation that has endured decades of political violence and extreme poverty, the effects of climate change are being felt acutely by children.
“Already in this country, 70% of school-age children do not go to school. In just one state in the Juba country, the drought has led to the closure of 40 schools, and this is going to be the trend in many drought-stricken areas, ”said Abdelmoula.
More than 700,000 people have already been displaced due to successive years of drought, forced to walk barren roads filled with animal carcasses, the BBC reported, in an attempt to reach population centers in search of food, water and shelter.
To make matters worse, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where many African countries get their wheat and cooking oil, has caused food prices to skyrocket.
The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that as many as 13 million more people worldwide will be forced into food insecurity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The truth of the matter is that Putin’s war is forcing us to take from the hungry to feed the hungry. As long as Russia continues its brutal campaign, innocent people will pay the price, “said Cindy McCain, the US representative to UN agencies in Rome, last week.
The combination of food and water shortages and high prices of imported wheat means Somalia is looking at “a risk of famine,” Abdelmoula said.
With its Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN seeks to raise nearly $ 1.5 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to 5.5 million of the most vulnerable people in Somalia. To date, however, it has received only $ 56.1 million, or 4% of the total amount.
The problems are not limited to Somalia. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, at least a quarter of Africa’s population is now facing food insecurity due to factors such as drought and higher prices.
Climate change is fast becoming a constant threat to the continent. At the UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, the industrialized countries continued to struggle with the reality that Africa was specifically ready to bear the brunt of a problem that was not of its own creation. While the nations at the conference reaffirmed a promise that developed nations would provide $ 100 billion annually to developing countries to help transform their economies and meet greenhouse gas emissions targets, the delivery of that money has fallen short.
Even more problematic is an agreement for rich nations to provide “loss and damage” financing to the poorer to deal with the costs of catastrophic events associated with climate change such as the ongoing drought in eastern Africa.
Of course, the serious situation in Somalia is not an isolated situation. As global temperatures continue to rise, the IPCC warns, “by 2030, half of Africa’s continent may be displaced by climate change.”