By Gail Conway
Wednesday June 15, 2022
A severely malnourished two-year-old girl is fed via a tube in Banadir Maternity and Children Hospital in Mogadishu
The United Nations has predicted that 350,000 children in
Somalia could die from hunger by the end of the summer.
Somalia is one of three countries in the Horn of Africa
along with Ethiopia and Kenya where 23 million people are facing crisis levels
of hunger - 4.6 times the population of Ireland.
In this region, one person is likely dying of hunger every
Further delayed rains have exacerbated what was already the
worst drought in four decades.
Dóchas, the Irish Association of Non-Governmental
Organisations, said its unacceptable that anyone anywhere should die of hunger
in the 21st Century.
The organisation said that we are seeing the direct impact
of climate crisis play out in real time and these countries are not receiving
the global attention they need.
In a briefing to politicians today, development and
humanitarian organisations including Concern Worldwide, GOAL, Oxfam Ireland and
Trócaire said the threat of famine is a political failure and urged the Irish
and International governments to scale up funding and act faster to end this
Drought is not uncommon in the Horn of Africa, but it has
now experienced four successive failed rainy seasons.The March-May season this
year is predicted to be the driest on record representing the most severe drought
in 40 years, attributed to the global climate crisis.
CEO of Dóchas Jane-Ann McKenna warned this situation could
have been avoided and collective global action is needed urgently.
"There has been four years now with very little rain,
so we have seen this crisis coming. The last two years there have been
effective warning systems in place, but there has been global inaction. There
has been a lack of political will to really address this and now we're at the
situation where 23 million people are at risk," she said.
The climate crisis is crippling the capacity of the poorest
countries to respond.
They are the most vulnerable to climate related shocks
despite being the least responsible.
For example, Ireland’s population is a third of the size of
Somalia’s, yet it is estimated that Ireland produces nearly 54 times higher
carbon emissions than Somalia alone.
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia represent 2.5% of the world’s
population but account for just 0.1% of global carbon emissions.
The combination of the economic consequences of Covid-19,
conflict and climate change are some of the root causes that need to be
addressed globally to prevent an official declaration of famine.
Ms McKenna pointed out that people are desperate for food
and food assistance.
"The war in Ukraine has really just exacerbated this
crisis. Many of these countries are wholly or 90% reliant on wheat imports from
both Ukraine and Russia, so that food source has dried up effectively,"
said Ms McKenna.
Related disruptions in grain supply, in addition to soaring
prices of oil and fertilisers, are driving regional food prices to an all time
Comparing February 2021 and February 2022, the cost for a
household to meet its essential needs increased by 92% in Sudan, 66% in
Ethiopia and 36% in Somalia.
We need real, concerted, political efforts at global level
to be able to radically scale up and mobilise aid into the region, she said.
"And we are asking Ireland to really use its voice at
the UN Security Council to really advocate for and push for other rich nations
to mobilise aid into the region to ensure that lives are not needlessly lost.
Every day this crisis goes on it costs more for us to respond, so we need to
act now," said Ms McKenna.
Caoimhe de Barra, CEO Trócaire, Jim Clarken, CEO Oxfam Ireland, Jane-Ann McKenna, CEO Dóchas, Mary van Lieshout, Deputy CEO GOAL and Amina Abdulla, Horn of Africa Regional Director Concern
On the ground, the food security situation is dire,
according to Amina Abdullah, Regional Director of East Africa for Concern
Approximately 5.7 million children are malnourished.
Based out of Nairobi, Ms Abdulla said eight agencies raised
the alarm about this crisis in January last year, but claimed no action was
taken with regard to providing the resources needed to respond to the situation
these countries are facing now.
"You’re talking over 20 million people in need across
these three countries, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. This is just for the period
up to September. However, if the forecast over the failed fifth rainy season
comes to pass, I can’t imagine the numbers we’ll be dealing with," said Ms
She noted that the needs now outstrip the resources
available but if there had been action sooner then maybe they wouldn’t be
dealing with so many people in need of assistance.
"Children are going for days without food, they’re
ending up in nutrition treatment centres when they shouldn’t have to be there.
Pregnant mothers are doing a trek of four days to get to a centre where they
can access food assistance and treatment," she said. "That shouldn’t
happen in this day and age."
Ms Abdullah acknowledged that what is drastically needed
right now is food, but it will only resolve the problem short term and more
sustainable solutions and investment are needed.
"This is a region that faced a locust infestation three
years ago, that has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic that has seen
people’s livelihoods destroyed, and now having to face four consecutive failed
rainy seasons," she said
"It is investments that were done in the past that have
allowed communities to sort of stave off the crisis up to this moment. So, it
is about looking at what is needed now, but also in tandem investing in
sustaining those investments in long term solutions to address some of the
underlying causes, one of which is climate change," she added.
Mary van Lieshout, Deputy CEO of GOAL, said their teams on
the ground have witnessed how the consecutive failure of rains have ravaged
communities and killed millions of livestock.
"In drought affected regions of Ethiopia, over 1.5
million livestock deaths were recorded in February. Roadsides are scattered
with carcasses of dead animals while communities are trying to survive due to
lack of water," she said.
Inflation levels in Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia are at
record levels between 25% - 34%, while global inflation is impacting on how aid
is being purchased and distributed.
"The cost of delivering aid has increased with higher
fuel transport and shipping costs further challenging the aid sector in South
Sudan, which has seen the funding steadily decrease in the last number of years
even in the face of increased humanitarian needs," said Ms Van Lieshout.
Countries that are most affected by climate change need
funding for adaptation, loss and damage according to Caoimhe de Barra, , CEO
Trócaire . She warned Climate finance is needed to address the long term
impacts of climate change.
"We need to take a much stronger policy stance here on
the island of Ireland," said Ms De Barra.
Oxfam’s CEO Jim Clarken also attributed the threat of famine
in the Horn of Africa to political failure.
"There is more than enough food in the world to feed
everybody," he said. "The famine in 2011 was the first famine in the
21st century and it should have been the last."
Mr Clark believes the threat of famine is the biggest crisis
facing the world today.
Outlining how money was mobilised in response to the global
pandemic and to the war in Ukraine, he said, "the money is there but it
needs to be mobilised."
Case study: Couple
cannot afford to feed children
This Somalian woman and her family moved from their village
to a site for internally displaced people in Mogadishu, Somalia due to drought.
There has been a continuous drought for two years and in
their village they could not plant or farm.
They could not feed their livestock which then died.
The family could not get any help where they lived so were
forced to move to Mogadishu.
Despite her husband trying to find work, there are no job
She said they cannot afford to feed their children.
In their old village, before they moved to Mogadishu, she
and her family were dependent on neighbours and family for help.
When they left, they took just the clothes they were wearing