Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), warned that if the international community waits to take action until a famine is officially declared, "we know that it will already be too late. Tens of thousands of people will already have died by the time we declare a famine," Maurer added, "The alarm bells are ringing loudly."
The number of people in dire need of emergency humanitarian assistance in Somalia has increased from 4.1 million at the beginning of 2022 to 7.1 million and is expected to continue to grow.
Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), highlighted that 22 million people living in the Horn of Africa are already in the clutches of a growing food crisis. "The situation expected to deteriorate into 2023," Rocca stressed, adding that what is being done was "minimal compared to the huge needs" of the region. Rocca said that "world leaders should listen to act immediately" in order not only to prevent a massive humanitarian crisis but also to establish "longterm solutions in the Horn of Africa."
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that in Somalia alone, more than $1 billion (€1 billion) is needed to prevent the worst from happening.
The Horn of Africa is currently witnessing its fifth consecutive failed rainy season. The war in Ukraine and its ensuing grain delivery shortages have further compounded the situation, as well as political upheaval across the region. More than 200,000 are at risk of dying — potentially by the end of the year. About half of the country's population is likely to experience hunger and want in some shape during the same timescale unless aid is stepped up. The number of children facing the effects of severe acute malnutrition in Somalia meanwhile has increased to over half a million.
James Elder, spokesman for the UN children's agency UNICEF, said that this level of child famine had not been seen in any country yet this century, with more than 700 children already having lost their lives this year due to malnutrition. "We've got more than half a million children facing preventable death. It's a pending nightmare," Elder stated, echoing Maurer's sentiments who said that children potentially dying of hunger "is the result of systemic failure."
Meanwhile, outbreaks of infectious diseases have also increased in Somalia, with around 8,400 suspected cases of cholera and nearly 13,000 suspected cases of measles.
Somalia's population is for the most part pastoral and nomadic, making it difficult to deliver aid where it is needed most.
Abubakar Dahir Osman, the UN's permanent representative in Somalia, however, emphasized that humanitarian aid alone cannot provide a lasting solution to the famine in Somalia. He said that the relationship between humanitarian aid and development needed to be strengthened to find sustainable solutions for those who are suffering.