On March 5, 2017, more than 100 Somalis died in less than 48 hours due to a famine that continues to threaten millions all across the region. The U.N. estimates that more than five million need aid and more than 300,000 children are acutely malnourished, while 71,000 are severely malnourished.

Contributing Factors

Somalia has been one of the most challenging environments in the world for humanitarian operations. Among an estimated population of 12 million, about 82 percent of Somalis live in poverty. Additionally, two decades of conflict have left 1.1 million as refugees. Famines continue to be a frequent occurrence, threatening the lives of Somalis and heightening the problem of poverty. In 2011, a famine in southern Somalia killed a quarter of a million people while also displacing millions.

The world already produces more than 1.5 times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. Nonetheless, about 21,000 still die every day from hunger. This crisis makes it clear that the distribution of food really needs to improve in order to ensure that richer countries can reach these drought-stricken areas in moments of emergencies. Moreover, the fact that aid was requested weeks before the famine — but was denied — goes to show that more concern over the region is needed. Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the U.N. Secretary-General in a $4.4 million aid appeal to avoid hunger and famine.

It’s also important to recognize war and its impact on prolonging poverty. The U.S. military has been bombing Somalia, launching various airstrikes against al-Shabab, creating more political tensions and deteriorating security conditions. In 2015, the U.S. dropped 14 bombs on Somalia. Instead of dropping aid packages, the biggest army in the world is spending tax dollars on perpetuating war and destabilizing the country, further compounding the problem of poverty and famine in southern Somalia.

Organizations Working to Reduce Somalia’s Hunger

Yet, in immediate crises, the people manage to get together to voluntarily go out and help those in dire need. Celebrities have created a fundraising campaign, raising more than $2 million in less than a week from over 80,000 contributors. Their initiative includes filling a cargo plane with food destined for the emergency zone in Somalia; actor Ben Stiller, athlete Colin Kaepernick and many others created the “Love Army for Somalia” fundraiser.

In addition, humanitarian organizations such as Action Against Hunger are also working to alleviate the famine. For more than 40 years it has helped lead the fight against hunger in nearly 50 countries, serving 14.9 million people. Action Against Hunger ensures that those in dire poverty can gain access to clean water, food, training and healthcare. Action Against Hunger has worked with communities in Somalia for more than 20 years. With more than five million in need of aid, the Love Army for Somalia and Action Against Hunger are two great methods to help alleviate the famine in southern Somalia.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr