Wednesday June 8, 2022
GENEVA — U.N.
agencies are warning of famine in Somalia and a surge of child deaths across
the Horn of Africa if their appeals for urgently needed funds to save the lives
of hundreds of thousands of hungry, malnourished children remain unmet.
The Horn of Africa is experiencing its fourth consecutive
year of failed rains — a climate event not seen in at least 40 years. If the
drought persists, the World Food Program warns as many as 20 million people
will be suffering from acute hunger by the end of the year.
UNICEF reports more than 1.7 million children across
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in urgent need of treatment for severe acute
malnutrition, the deadliest form of the condition.
Rania Dagash-Kamara is UNICEF deputy regional director,
eastern and southern Africa. Speaking from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, she
says the risks are particularly high for children in Somalia who now are living
on the frontlines of the climate crisis.
“We have an estimated 386,000 children in Somalia who are in
desperate need of treatment for life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.
Now, if I compare this to 2011, which was a famine year, we are now exceeding
the numbers we had then, which were 340,000 children that required treatment at
that time,” she said.
More than a quarter-million people died in the Somali famine
of 2011, half of them children under age five. Dagash-Kamara says children are
dying from a combination of malnutrition and killer diseases, such as measles
She says the drought has killed crops and livestock and
dried up water sources.
Children are starving and do not have the defenses to fight
off the deadly impact of malnutrition and disease.
She notes the lives of children in the Horn of Africa also
are at increased risk because of the war in Ukraine.
“Somalia alone used to import 92% of its wheat from Russia
and Ukraine, but supply lines are now blocked. And the war is exacerbating
spiraling global food and fuel prices, meaning that many in Ethiopia, Kenya,
and Somalia can no longer afford the basic food stuffs they need to survive,”
At the same time, U.N. agencies are cash poor. They lack the
money needed to run their life-saving humanitarian operations. UNICEF has
received just a third of its $250 million appeal for the Horn of Africa. The
World Food Program says it needs $274 million to scale up lifesaving food and
nutrition for more than 4 million people in Somalia over the next six months.
The agencies are appealing for critical support from the
G-7, which will meet in Germany later this month. They say the G-7 advanced
countries have it within their power to stave off a catastrophe that need not
and must not happen.