Somalia: Drought forced more than 450,000 people from their homes this year

Around 1.4 million children could be acutely malnourished by mid-year

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Tuesday 29 March 2022
Somalia: Drought forced more than 450,000 people from their homes this year Photo: iStock

More than 450,000 people in Somalia have been forced to abandon their homes in search of food and water in the first 10 weeks of this year, a new report showed. Women and children are mostly vulnerable, a paper by Save the Children, an international non-profit that works for welfare of children, noted.

A severe drought has affected about 90 per cent of Somalia’s land and a quarter of its 16 million population, according to the report. It is its worst drought in a decade. 

“We are witnessing a climate disaster unfolding before us,” said Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, country-director for Save the Children, Somalia. He added:

Somalia has always had droughts every 10 years or so. But these back-to-back droughts mean people do not have the time to recover in between and re-establish crops or livestock. This is why this situation has now reached crisis levels — with nearly the entire country affected by this drought. 

We need to act now to prevent a famine like the one we saw in 2011, which took 260,000 lives — half of whom were small children, he added. 

Crop production is likely to be within 50-70 per cent below the 10-year average due to poor rainfall, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

The drought is posing severe consequences for communities, including food and water shortages, access to sanitation and hygiene facilities, heightening the risk of outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and gender-based violence, Save the Children observed. 

Somalia's displacement camps are coming under intense pressure, with more people leaving their homes in search of food and water. This causes a spike in malnutrition and other illnesses. 

Around 1.4 million children could be acutely malnourished by mid-year, up 64 per cent from two years ago, the United Nations estimated. 

Current drought conditions are expected to worsen until the start of the rainy season (Gu) in April, 2022, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

The forecast from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicated that cumulative rainfall during the March-May 2022 long rains / Gu season in the country is most likely to be average to below-average.

Somalia may experience its worst drought ever if rains fail again this year as projected, warned Famine Early Warning System Network. 

Somalia experienced three major drought crises in this decade: In 2011-12, 2016-2017 and now in 2021-22. 

In the 2011-12 drought crisis, when UN declared a famine in Somalia, 3.7 million people experienced crisis levels of food insecurity.

This year, the situation is likely to be worsened by war in Ukraine, driving up food prices and transport costs for key imports such as wheat flour, sugar and cooking oil.

Around 4.6 million Somalis will not have enough food by May 2022, the latest food security projection by UN showed.

But only 2.3 per cent of the current UN appeal to respond to the crisis has been met by donors. 

Save the Children said funding was urgently needed to provide life-saving support for families across Somalia to stop a repeat of the 2011 drought that became a deadly famine.

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