The Horn of Africa is experiencing the most severe food crisis in the world today, with Somalia being the hardest hit. In the first half of 2011, the number of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance increased by almost 850,000 to some 2.85 million people, one in three Somalis. This number is expected to increase further.
This crisis in Somalia will have an increasingly devastating effect on other countries in the region. In the Horn of Africa there are currently already 10 million people in crisis, including the 2.85 million in Somalia. The number is increasing on a daily basis, with thousands of Somalis fleeing to Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti every day.
Three in five children arriving in refugee camps in Ethiopia from southern Somalia are malnourished. In refugee camps in Kenya, more deaths were recorded amongst Somali children in the therapeutic feeding centres in the first quarter of 2011 than the whole of 2010. This is an indicator of how dire the food security situation is in southern Somalia, the epicentre of the regional crisis.
A recent assessment conducted in Banadir Region by ADRA Somalia and Development Action Network – a local NGO working in Mogadishu –revealed the exact magnitude of the drought that has ravaged the region. Interviews with Internally Displaced Persons at one of the camps in Xamarweyne district (the camp is housing IDPs affected by the drought from the regions of Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle) perhaps best illustrates the dire situation.
Mayow Osman is a forty year old IDP; all his animals have perished in the drought and he goes on to narrate how he reached the Xamarweyne IDP camp in Mogadishu, from his home in Dinsor District. He explains how he and his family walked for two weeks to get to Mogadishu while being stopped on the way by Al Shabaab who prevented him and his family of five from entering Mogadishu because they believed says he: “we are looking for assistance from the Transitional Federal Government controlled part of Mogadishu”. Mayow is part of 26,500 IDPs who have recently arrived at the camp, and many more are streaming in daily. The IDPS have no clean water access and in addition to the severe malnutrition; an acute outbreak of diarrhoea and measles cases have been reported. Mortality deaths have also been reported.
Child malnutrition rates in the worst affected areas are more than double the emergency threshold of 15 per cent according to UN OCHA, and are expected to rise. Almost half the children arriving from southern Somalia in refugee camps in Mogadishu and Ethiopia are malnourished, and those arriving in Kenya are little better. High mortality rates among children are being reported in all IDP camps.
Donor support to address current needs is urgently required to reduce and prevent a further deterioration of the crisis. According to reports, current funding is less than half the amount needed to reach the most vulnerable people. Lack of funds for food, nutrition and livelihood interventions is particularly concerning. If funding is not made available for humanitarian interventions now, the crisis might deteriorate even further.