Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed in Somalia. Without enough rain, it could fall into a famine by mid-2017.
Famine is not a word that aid agencies use lightly. But 2017 began with the United Nations and organisations including World Vision warning that without a massive and urgent scale-up of humanitarian assistance, famine could return to the East African nation.
By February, more than 360,000 children under the age of five were acutely malnourished, with 71,000 severely malnourished.
The number of people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance jumped in just six months from five million to 6.2 million – half the country's population. The number of people categorised as being in “crisis and emergency”, one step away from famine, also jumped from 1.1 million to 2.9 million.
The forecast for the Gu rainy season – the main rainy season lasting from April to June – is poor. In a worst-case scenario where the Gu season performs very poorly, famine would be expected by mid-year.
“The warning could not be clearer and it could not be more stark,” said Dick Trenchard, speaking on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Somalia, the World Food Programme and the UN children’s agency UNICEF.
There is a small window to stop a repeat of the devastating 2011 famine. But we must act now.
“We are undoubtedly in a crisis, but the situation will even get worse, especially if the April rains perform poorly,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Africa director for the International Federation of Red Crescent Societies. “We need to act decisively, we need to act massively, and we need to act now if we are to prevent a repeat of the awful scenes of 2011.”
In 2011, the international community largely ignored warnings from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. Many see this as one reason so many people died. In Somalia an estimated 260,000 people, including 133,000 children, starved to death.
Humanitarian agencies were stretched by an explosion of crises, with more than 17 million people in the Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa in need of aid as a result of drought and conflict.
Somalia is not the only country in the region again facing a food crisis. After four years of war in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, 4.6 million people are facing severe food insecurity. Three million people have been forced from their homes, including one million who have fled the country, and almost 200,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the highest ever recorded.
World Vision is urgently appealing for funding to help those affected meet their immediate needs through initiatives in food security, health and nutrition, livelihoods, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene.