One in Three Children's Lives at Risk from Malnutrition in Somalia

Regional humanitarian crisis wracks East Africa, threatening millions in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia
Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya, courtesy

NAIROBI, KENYA—An estimated 10 million people in the Horn of Africa are in urgent need of assistance as drought-like conditions threaten to push populations into a devastating nutritional crisis, warns humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger | ACF International. Conditions seem to worsen daily across eastern Africa—in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia—as multiple years of below-average rainfall have devastated harvests, destroyed livestock and safety nets, and displaced tens of thousands of people.

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Somalia has been particularly affected, with one third of its population—more than 2.85 million people—in need of humanitarian assistance. This year’s rainfall is 60% below average, resulting in significant livestock losses and the widespread destruction of crops. The resulting increase in food prices has aggravated the situation: staple food prices have risen by 50% over the past year as families struggle to feed themselves, and an estimated one in three children now suffers from acute malnutrition in some regions.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that some 1.46 million Somalis are now displaced, fleeing the effects of drought and conflict. An estimated 80% of these individuals live in areas inaccessible to the humanitarian community, given Somalia’s difficult security conditions, but some 60,000 have fled to neighboring countries, with more arriving every day. Kenya currently hosts the largest number of Somali refugees, including 30,000 in camps in Dadaab in the country’s northeast, with 1,300 newly displaced people arriving every day since June 19th.

“Families have walked for days, weeks. They have left everything behind, carrying only what their strength has allowed them to, and they arrive in the worst state of physical weakness and despair that we have ever seen,” says Jens Oppermann, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Somalia.

As one of the few humanitarian organizations present in Somalia, Action Against Hunger calls on the international community and on individual donors to support emergency relief efforts commensurate with the magnitude of this regional crisis. Immediate funding is needed to meet the growing needs of displaced families and to provide basic services including access to clean water, food and basic sanitary facilities.