Once more the region is haunted by the conjectures of famine. The absence of rainfall, severe climate changes, conflicts and out-of-touch political leadership are the main driving factors.
It’s a pity that people are dying of hunger while there is plenty of fish in the sea. This I believe captures the heartless irony of this nightmare that is revisiting Somalia time and time again. Nevertheless, material and financial infrastructure is prerequisite for catching the fish, preserving it, and delivering it to the masses. If these elements are lacking, the people will continue to experience food insecurity.
Half of the children in Somalia are at risk of developing severe malnourishment. It’s not so much about if lives will be lost, but how many, according to several humanitarian organizations. The loss of 250,000 lives in the 2011-famine is a horrible reminder, half of them children under the age of five.
The vicious cycle of lack of rain leads to dry water-holes which kills in turn both livestock and people. This forces mass displacement as people must walk for days on end to reach major cities that are already overcrowded. Many die along the way, others may find themselves in conditions worse than the ones they left. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable in such situations, having to fend for food, avoid sexual assaults and take care of their families.
In the last three months, close to 147,000 people in Somalia have been displaced as a direct result of the drought. On top of this, parts of Somalia is facing reoccurring floods that are wiping away homes and resulting in crop and livestock losses, putting Somalia on the front line of severe climate changes. As a result of the covid-19 pandemic the cost of food, fuel and water adds an additional burden to a severely challenged people, making 4,1 million Somalis dependent on receiving food aid to survive.
Conflicts and political instability undermine cooperation, regionally and nationally. In the 2011-famine we saw how corruption and re-distributive bottlenecks at all levels undermined the effort to combat the famine. Last year Somalia experienced heavy political turmoil at all levels that underplayed the real problems; social and economic challenges of ordinary people.
Action is needed now to avoid a disaster. Response cannot be delayed as millions are on the verge of death. Efforts to stop the severe side effects of this looming famine needs to be put in place. Regional cooperation is more important than ever as famine knows no boundaries. Combating famine cannot be divorced from well-functioning institutions and an accountable government. The writing is on the wall, and the echoes of 2011-famine is deafening.
Will Somali politicians and international supporters acknowledge this and act?
Khadra Yasien Ahmed