In Somalia aid workers report children starving to death “before our eyes.” According to the latest assessment for Somalia, an estimated 1.5 million under-fives face acute malnutrition by the end of the year. Those numbers are only expected to go up.
Michael Dunford, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) regional director for east Africa, said governments had to donate urgently and generously if there was to be any hope of avoiding catastrophe in the Horn of Africa country.
“We need money and we need it now,” said Dunford. “Will we able to avert [a famine in Somalia]? Unless there is … a massive scaling-up from right now, it won’t be possible, quite frankly. The only way, at this point, is if there is a massive investment in humanitarian relief, and all the stakeholders, all the partners, come together to try to avert this.”
Across the whole of east Africa, 89 million people are now considered “acutely food insecure” by the WFP, a number that has grown by almost 90% in the past year.
“Unfortunately, I do not see that rate of growth slowing down. If anything, it seems to be accelerating,” said Dunford. He explains inadequate funding had hampered efforts to learn from the 2011 famine. “We are seeing children dying before our eyes, seeing populations that have lost their livelihoods. It’s not that we didn’t learn the lessons of 2011; there was a lot of very good learning from that crisis. It’s just we haven’t been able to implement it to the extent required because of the lack of funding.”
Claire Sanford, deputy humanitarian director of Save the Children, said, “I can honestly say in my 23 years of responding to humanitarian crisis, this is by far the worst I’ve seen, particularly in terms of the level of impact on children,” she said. “The starvation that my colleagues and I witnessed in Somalia has escalated even faster than we feared.” She added, “We have genuinely failed as an international community that we have allowed the situation to get to the extent it is at the moment. In 2011, we vowed as a community that we would never, ever let this happen again. And yet we have failed in that promise,” she added.
In April, the UN had received only 3% of funds for its $6bn appeal for Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan.