Washington, D.C. — Extreme food insecurity continues to claim the lives of people in Somalia amid an unprecedented multi-season drought across the eastern Horn of Africa. Although humanitarian assistance has helped to delay an official Famine (IPC Phase 5) declaration in Somalia, experts warn the thresholds for Famine are likely to be met in April-June 2023 as current relief funding dries up.
In its latest Somalia Alert, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reports that high levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related deaths are being exacerbated by concurrent disease outbreaks in the most vulnerable regions of the country.
Up to 8.3 million people in Somalia will need urgent humanitarian food assistance through at least mid-2023 to prevent the death toll from rising.
“The international community’s response to the Famine Projection in September has made an important impact; however, the ongoing hunger crisis in Somalia is truly unprecedented and warrants an even stronger humanitarian response to prevent more lives from being lost as the drought likely continues into the new year,” FEWS NET Team Leader Kiersten Johnson said.
The fifth consecutive failed rainy season projected for October-December has been realized, with rains performing 40-70 percent below average across Somalia. The latest forecasts indicate the drought will continue with an unprecedented sixth below-average rainy season expected during Somalia’s April-June rainy season.
Over 1.3 million people in Somalia have been displaced by the drought since early 2021. Many of these people are now living in densely populated displacement sites without safe water or adequate sanitation, which combined with extreme food insecurity, water scarcity, and ongoing outbreaks of measles and cholera, are contributing to increased death rates.
The latest assessment further indicates there is a Risk of Famine in several additional areas in southern and central Somalia.
“The number of households affected by this drought continues to grow every day,” Johnson said. “The lack of an official Famine declaration should not send the message that all is well in Somalia. Child malnutrition and hunger-related deaths are already occurring, and if humanitarian aid slows down early next year, the world will witness even worse outcomes.”
If government agencies and international donors fail to provide higher levels of relief funding in 2023, it is within the realm of possibility that hunger-related deaths could exceed that of the 2011-12 Famine in Somalia – when nearly 260,000 people died – without the thresholds for Famine ever officially being met.
Famine Early Warning Systems Network