In March 2017, CNN spoke to Fatumata Hassan, a Somali mother struggling for her own survival and the survival of her children as Somalia faces drought, famine and terrorism – all culminating in the hunger of nearly half its population. She has walked over 100 miles to find food – an increasingly common requirement for many Somalis. Extreme hunger in Somalia is far-reaching; 3.2 million Somalis are critically food insecure, and 6.2 million Somalis need humanitarian assistance in general.
Somalia lies on the east coast of Africa, neighbored by Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Established in 1960, Somalia is a relatively young country and has often faced instability. In 1991, the ousting of the ruler Mohamed Siad Barre resulted in an ongoing civil war. In the 2000s, pirates and jihadist groups, such as Al-Shabaab, created disruption and military conflict. Finally, in 2012, Somalia reintroduced a formal parliament and the first presidential election since 1967 took place. While these measures have helped to create greater stability in Somalia, Al-Shabaab continues to cause violence within the country.
Great instability within Somalia has not helped it to cope with the drought it has been facing. For two years now, Somaliland and Puntland in northern Somalia have received below average rainfall. Now, Jubaland in the south is beginning to feel the effects of drought as well. Lack of rain causes crop failure. With little to nothing to eat for the people of Somalia, they cannot spare food to feed their livestock. Locals in Puntland estimate that pastoralists had lost 65 percent of their animals by March of 2017. Loss of livestock equates to loss of income, meat and milk to nourish children, resulting in increased poverty and extreme hunger in Somalia.
Humanitarian efforts are helping alleviate the effects of the drought. Since the beginning of 2017, $667 million has gone to humanitarian aid within the country, helping it to avoid a similar outcome to the fatal famine of 2011, in which 260,000 people perished. However, conditions in camps set up to provide aid deteriorate as the U.N. appeal for donations is only one-third of the way fulfilled.
Stability and long-term investment to build proper infrastructure – such as a proper healthcare system – are necessary for Somalia to fully recover and handle future droughts with less required aid from the international community. These needs are difficult to achieve with most of Somalia’s budget funneled toward security forces needed to fend off Al-Shabaab.
In the future, greater international support and funding could help create stability in Somalia. The World Bank and International Development Association could be instrumental in this process.
For now, donations from the international community are needed to fend off famine and rehabilitate the 6.2 million Somali people struggling to survive. UNICEF and Save the Children both have online donation pages where individuals can help save those in Somalia who are suffering from hunger.
– Mary Kate Luft