Famine Threats Persist in Somalia, Yet Recent Findings Show Surge in Humanitarian Assistance is Stalling Famine

Today, the humanitarian community’s independent Famine Review Committee released grim new findings for Somalia: the impacts of the prolonged drought are resulting in an overwhelming number of hunger-related deaths and extreme levels of human suffering, even though Famine thresholds have not yet been reached. The findings also indicate that, unless humanitarian assistance is further scaled up and sustained next year, Famine remains a significant threat in internal displacement sites in and around Mogadishu, and the southern Somali districts of Buur Hakaba and Baidoa.

The United States has acted early and aggressively to respond to the drought in Somalia and the region in an attempt to avert Famine. To continue meeting urgent needs, I am announcing an additional $411 million in new USAID funding for the people of Somalia, bringing total U.S. assistance to approximately $1.3 billion this year. This represents more than two-thirds of all humanitarian funding to Somalia to date in 2022, and we call on other donors to make additional contributions as soon as possible.

USAID’s humanitarian assistance will provide emergency food, nutrition, and other critical relief for the most vulnerable families who are at immediate risk of Famine, with a special emphasis on individuals who have been forced to flee their homes due to the drought. We will provide cash and vouchers for communities to purchase food from local markets, both supporting the local economy, and preventing further starvation. With this new assistance, USAID partners will now have the funding to sustain current operations through March 2023 – operations vital to the global effort to avert widespread Famine in Somalia.

The Famine Review Committee’s findings arrive as sustained drought continues to leave approximately 6.7 million people in Somalia facing conditions of grave hunger. The drought – already much longer than what occurred in 2011, with millions more people facing crisis levels of hunger – is poised to drag on, with the fifth failed rainy season likely extending suffering well into next year. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine continues to drive up the cost of food, fertilizer, and fuel. And as the climate crisis intensifies the drought and flooding that destroy farmland, the number of people suffering from extreme hunger beyond the Horn is only set to rise.

But the findings offer glimmers of hope, as well. Though Buur Hakaba and Baidoa still face the threat of Famine, the swift increase of humanitarian assistance – mobilized in large part by the United States – has delayed the onset of Famine, which was originally projected to begin between October and December of this year. Along with our partners, we reached more than 4.6 million people in Somalia in November alone with emergency food assistance and other life-saving relief. While these findings clearly demonstrate that a universal increase in humanitarian aid can delay Famine, the United States fiercely believes that additional increases in such aid can avert it altogether. The warnings of the Famine Review Committee serve not as a stamp of inevitability, but as an alarm bell alerting us to our last lingering opportunities to avoid catastrophe.

Five years ago, the world heeded a similar alarm bell, and succeeded in pulling the region back from the brink of Famine. Today, we have no other choice but to do so again – or witness a level of death and despair never before seen in the Horn of Africa. We again call on all donors – both traditional and emerging – to join us in dramatically scaling up humanitarian assistance to deliver desperately needed aid and save millions of lives.

Source: US Agency for International Development