Sep 5, 2022 - World

"Famine is at the door" in Somalia, UN aid chief warns

A baby lies with its mother while being treated for severe acute malnutrition in Mogadishu, Somalia on Sept. 4
A baby lies with its mother while being treated for severe acute malnutrition in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Sept. 4. Photo: Ed Ram/Getty Images

Famine is expected to be declared in parts of Somalia later this year, the UN warned Monday, as millions in the drought-stricken country face "catastrophic" levels of hunger and malnutrition.

What they're saying: "Famine is at the door, and today we are receiving a final warning," UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.

  • "I repeat: This is a final warning to all of us. The situation and trends resemble those seen in 2010-2011, in that crisis. Except now they are worse," he added, referring to the 2010-2011 famine that killed more than 260,000 people, mostly children.

The big picture: For months, the UN and aid groups have warned of the increasingly dire situation facing parts of East Africa due to prolonged drought, conflict, spiking food prices made worse by the war in Ukraine and funding shortfalls.

  • The region has seen four consecutive failed rainy seasons and the humanitarian crises across East Africa are expected to continue at least until March 2023.
  • On Monday, the UN said that famine is expected to emerge in three areas of Bay Region of southern Somalia in late 2022 without "urgent, multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance."
  • The UN previously warned that up to 7 million people in Somalia needed urgent assistance to treat and prevent malnutrition and reduce the number of ongoing hunger-related deaths.
  • At least 1.5 million children across the country are expected to face acute malnutrition by October, Griffins said Monday.

State of play: The International Rescue Committee warned separately on Monday that an official famine declaration will be too late.

  • "People are already dying," IRC president David Miliband said in a statement. "During the last famine in Somalia in 2011, half of all deaths occurred before famine was declared. It took two years to assess the full death toll."
  • Miliband called on the international community to adopt "a no regrets approach, acting now without waiting for a declaration." He added that is a "moral responsibility to prevent an entire generation from suffering these conditions.”

The bottom line: Griffiths said the world "has a chance" to work to prevent a catastrophic famine.

  • But "we are in the last minute of the eleventh hour to save lives. The clock is running, and it will soon run out."

Go deeper: Millions in East Africa face "catastrophic" hunger, aid groups warn

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