Famine Declared in Somalia as Scale & Scope Reach Catastrophic Levels

Action Against Hunger fears the current crisis is the worst since 1992, when 300,000 people died of famine in Somalia.
Credit: Reuters/Noor Khamis, courtesy Trust.org/AlertNet

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA—With life-threatening conditions reaching catastrophic levels in parts of Eastern Africa, the United Nations took the extraordinary step of declaring famine in parts of Somalia, a classification defined by mortality rates greater than two people per 10,000 per day across a specific region, along with skyrocketing rates of deadly malnutrition (above 30% for children under five), among other indicators.

Help alleviate suffering in
the Horn of Africa. Donate

With nearly two decades in Somalia, Action Against Hunger | ACF International was able to quickly launch emergency programs earlier this month when the food crisis and drought-like conditions crippled populations in regions like Mogadishu and Wajid. And while Action Against Hunger's teams continue to provide lifesaving support—treatment and medical care for acutely malnourished children; general nutritional support for children under five years of age; and emergency access to food, clean water, and improved sanitation for displaced populations—families in dire need of help continue to flood into ACF's emergency nutrition centers.

Watch the video below for scenes of the situation on the ground from the Horn of Africa.

Ongoing relief efforts are simply insufficient to counter the scope and severity of the crisis gripping Somalia and the rest of the eastern region. “The UN declaration confirms the scale of this devastating crisis witnessed by our teams on the ground over the past weeks,” states Jens Oppermann, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Somalia. “The crisis will only grow in magnitude and severity unless immediate funding is made available and measures are taken to enable aid agencies to further scale up relief efforts.”

Beyond the need for immediate, lifesaving interventions, urgent commitments are also needed to address the famine’s underlying causes and to mitigate its long-term impacts. Program and policy supports are needed to ensure productive harvests this October; livestock restocking is needed for communities whose herds were devastated by drought; water points require substantial rehabilitation; and investments are needed in income-generating activities to ensure long-term resilience to climate shocks and cyclical humanitarian crises.

As one of the few humanitarian agencies working in Somalia today—and the single-largest operating in Somalia’s South and Central regions—Action Against Hunger is well positioned to scale up emergency food distributions and its ongoing nutritional programs in hard-hit southern Somalia. Given Somalia’s special security context, it is paramount that any large-scale relief effort be channeled through organizations already authorized by national and regional authorities to carry out this type of work—and possessing the necessary in-country experience to guarantee the effective deployment of a substantial increase in humanitarian assistance.