The Irish Times
Friday April 29, 2022
A fourth consecutive failed rainy season is dragging Somalia
and its 16.3 million people to the brink of famine and mass starvation. The
country, which has experienced 30 years of bloody conflict, now has some
745,000 inhabitants displaced by drought, and the United Nations is warning
that 350,000 children could die by the summer if nothing is done to help them.
Six million people are in need of food while 81,000 are already said to be
As Sally Hayden has reported vividly in these pages in
recent days from Dullow refugee camp, in the south west of the country, on the
Ethiopian border, the lives of many thousands are hanging by a thread. Their
few animals, sole means of sustenance beyond meagre supplies from NGOs, line
the edge of the camp. These emaciated carcasses are also testimony to the
extinction of pastoralist and nomadic ways of life that sustained two-thirds of
this country’s population.
Eleven years ago, famine in Somalia – the first big famine
of the 21st century – killed a quarter of a million people, half of them
children under the age of six. Now global warming is again squeezing the life
out of this desiccated land, a tragedy compounded by the control of wide
swathes of the country by the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab, which denies
access by foreign aid organisations to their territory. Those who flee say
conditions for civilians in those areas or places where fighting is ongoing are
To be designated a “famine” at least 20 per cent of
households must have a complete lack of food and other basic needs, more than
30 per cent of children must be acutely malnourished, with two people per
10,000 dying each day.
Somalia is apparently not there yet. Or is it? Designation
as a famine would certainly help draw desperately needed international
attention and ramp up help, but even collating the data is difficult, with many
deaths unreported and much of the country unmonitored. The world’s help must
not be dependent on an impossible statistical calculation.