Somali children starving ‘before our eyes’ as Western aid falters: Charities

Internally displaced children eat a meal at Kabasa Primary School, Dollow, Gedo Region, Somalia, May 25, 2022. (Reuters)
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  • Ukrainian crisis depleting world’s food supply amid worst drought in 40 years in Horn of Africa
  • The WFP has said that 89 million people in eastern Africa are now considered ‘acutely food insecure,’ a 90 percent rise on the last year

LONDON: Somalia was facing a huge risk of famine with children already starving to death “before our eyes,” a UN food aid organization official has warned.

In a letter to G7 leaders, Michael Dunford, the UN World Food Program’s regional director for east Africa, said only a “massive” funding and humanitarian relief effort would prevent disaster in the country.

The G7 governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US, he added, needed to urgently donate to avoid catastrophe in the Muslim nation.

Dunford said: “We need money, and we need it now. Will we be able to avert (a famine in Somalia)? Unless there is … a massive scaling-up from right now, it won’t be possible, quite frankly.

“The only way, at this point, is if there is a massive investment in humanitarian relief, and all the stakeholders, all the partners, come together to try to avert this.”

The Horn of Africa is especially vulnerable to famine in its current state due to four consecutive insufficient rainy seasons and price rises that have been caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The WFP has said that 89 million people in eastern Africa are now considered “acutely food insecure,” a 90 percent rise on the last year.

“Unfortunately, I do not see (the rate) slowing down. If anything, it seems to be accelerating,” Dunford added.

The WFP’s appeal comes after G7 leaders last year promised to provide $7 billion to support countries fighting famine, but program experts claim that insufficient funding was dedicated to the Horn of Africa.

The crisis in Somalia, which is worse than any other struggle experienced by countries in the region, is at the forefront of the WFP’s funding demands. The 2011 famine in Somalia killed more than 250,000 people, mostly children, and analysts fear this year’s situation could be even more lethal.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are facing famine by the end of the year, with a UN International Children’s Emergency Fund worker telling Sky News that, “the statistics are showing that the malnutrition levels among children are higher than the 2011 famine.”

UNICEF’s Jamal Abdi Sarman said: “That potentially indicates a looming famine in the foreseeable future. If an intervention does not happen as expected, and quickly, we will inevitably witness the mass death of children in the coming months.”

Claire Sanford, deputy humanitarian director of Save the Children, told the Guardian that she met mothers in Somalia who were powerless to stop their kids dying, with several families burying multiple children.

She said: “I can honestly say in my 23 years of responding to humanitarian crisis, this is by far the worst I’ve seen, particularly in terms of the level of impact on children. The starvation that my colleagues and I witnessed in Somalia has escalated even faster than we feared.

“We have genuinely failed as an international community that we have allowed the situation to get to the extent it is at the moment. In 2011, we vowed as a community that we would never, ever let this happen again. And yet we have failed in that promise,” she added.