Millions of children face famine threat in Somalia

Somalia is on the brink of famine, just five years after it last devastated the country

Dahir* at the hospital, where Save the Children has established and maintains a stabilsation centre for severely malnourished children
Six-month-old Dahir at a Somalia hospital, where Save the Children maintains a stabilisation centre. Credit: Colin Crowley/Save the Children

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If calls for aid are not answered within the next two months, millions of children could be at risk of death and Somalia could once again fall into famine.

In 2011, a quarter of a million people lost their lives – 130,000 of them children under five years old.

With the international community slow to respond, droughts intensifying and spring rains set to fail, the tragedy of 2011 looks set to repeat itself.

Dead livestock near Somaliland
Dead livestock near Kalawleh, Somaliland. Credit:  Felicity McCabe / Save the Children

Long-term effects of famine

If it doesn’t rain, rivers run dry, crops fail to grow, livestock can’t survive, staple food prices skyrocket, employment falls and millions of lives hang in the balance.

Malnutrition and starvation have already started to take their toll on the country’s young children.

363,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished with 71,000 severely malnourished.

Aasha, five, from, Somaliland:  “I help with the goats, my favourite is a little one called Quruxo. It means ‘beautiful one’.”  Credit: Felicity McCabe / Save the Children.

The time to act is now

As conditions worsen in Somaliland, Puntland and Somalia, desperate families are taking their children to neighbouring countries, risking separation, exploitation and even death.

The time for donors and for the international community to take action is now.

Country Director for Save the Children Somalia said: “We have a small window to stop what happened in 2011 from happening again – but that window is quickly shutting.

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Hassan, a village elder from Gargara, has lived through many droughts in his lifetime, but the recent prolonged lack of rainfall is the worst he has experienced.
Hassan, a village elder says: “Water is a basic need and children should learn income-generating skills.  Credit: Felicity McCabe / Save the Children

Save the Children on the ground

We need £48 million to reach 1.2 million Somalis affected by the crisis.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has called for £240 million in lifesaving funds.

We’re already providing some of the hardest-hit communities with:

  • clean water
  • health and nutrition services
  • food vouchers
  • unconditional cash transfers.

This work in Somalia is part of the organisation’s wider response to help vulnerable children and families affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa, including in Ethiopia and Kenya.

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