NEW YORK, Dec. 5, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governments and other key global partners are convening in Mogadishu today to discuss plans for sustaining humanitarian support for Somalia. In response to a recent alert that parts of Somalia could face severe famine in 2018, Action Against Hunger urged the international community to sustain large-scale levels of assistance to save the lives of acutely malnourished children and meet the urgent survival needs of communities devastated by extreme drought and conflict.
"We face a critical window of opportunity," said Action Against Hunger's East Africa Regional Director, Hajir Maalim. "The surge in humanitarian assistance in Somalia this year successfully averted famine, but the drought is intensifying—and expected to worsen in 2018. If current levels of aid are reduced or compromised, Somalia could quickly spiral into catastrophe."
According to a new report from the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), more than 3.1 million people across Somalia are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, and acute malnutrition is a major public health emergency threatening the lives of 1.2 million children. Four consecutive seasons of failed rains have wiped out crops and livestock, leaving communities without food or income. Rising prices for basic commodities are pushing the poorest families deeper into debt and jeopardizing their ability to meet their daily survival needs. In the past year alone, drought has displaced an estimated 948,00 people from their homes.1
Data from Action Against Hunger nutrition assessments in 2017 among displaced populations in Mogadishu indicated that 30 percent of children were acutely malnourished, signifying a very critical emergency. Results from the organization's assessments in November 2017 in Hudur district in Bakool also indicated a nutrition emergency, with rates of acute malnutrition at 17.2 percent among displaced children. Action Against Hunger's field teams have also documented extreme water shortages among communities in Bakool, with many people unable to access more than 7.5 liters of water per day, which is below the minimum humanitarian standard for survival needs in emergencies.
When famine was declared in Somalia in 2011 under similar conditions, the world was slow to rally a large-scale response, and an estimated 250,000 people died.
Despite significant efforts from the government of Somalia and humanitarian partners over the past year, the extended, severe drought has caused a sharp deterioration in food insecurity and a huge increase in needs. The failed rains—along with ongoing conflict, entrenched poverty, and the lack of a functioning health care system outside the capital city—have delivered a crippling blow to extremely vulnerable populations still struggling to recover after the 2011 famine.
"Famine never happens out of the blue," said Maalim. "Today, the warning signs are in plain view. We must learn from the past and take action—both now and over the longer term—to prevent the worst."
As the international community convenes in Mogadishu this week, Action Against Hunger calls for:
- donors to mobilize full funding for the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan and translate pledges into funding at the frontline now;
- parties to conflict to uphold international humanitarian law and ensure that populations in need have access to aid;
- the government of Somalia to guarantee safe, unimpeded humanitarian operations to address the crisis.
"We must act quickly to sustain current levels of aid and save lives," said Maalim, "It is equally vital to help people rebuild their livelihoods; strengthen social safety nets; bolster the resilience of communities and markets; and most of all, to prioritize political solutions to end the conflict."
1 Somalia Food Security Outlook: October 2017 to May 2018. (Famine Early Warning Systems Network & Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.)
SOURCE Action Against Hunger USA