Out of control locust swarms, intense droughts and heavy flooding have decimated crops and the livelihood of Somalis. These factors increase hunger in Somalia by leaving millions of people food insecure. Currently, 5.7 million people, almost half of Somalia’s population, are food insecure, and 2.7 million people cannot meet their daily food requirements. The country faces constant fighting, recurring locust swarms, droughts and floods – all of which drastically affect hunger in Somalia.
4 Reasons for Hunger in Somalia
- Ongoing conflict destabilizes the country, disrupts livelihoods and hinders aid distribution. Since gaining independence in 1960, Somalia has experienced conflict after conflict, destabilizing the country and harming its people. In 1988, a full-scale civil war broke out due to a power vacuum. Two warlords attempted to gain control of the country, both ultimately failing but subjecting Somalia to crisis. The fighting between these factions destroyed crops and stopped food distribution, causing a famine that killed 300,000 people. Currently, more than 2.6 million Somalis are internally displaced and 760,000 Somalis fled to neighboring countries, leaving their livelihoods behind. Even though a government was established in 2004, its power is extremely limited. Conflict continues around the country, decreasing stability and security while raising humanitarian issues — one of them being food insecurity.
- The biggest locust swarm Somalia has experienced in 25 years is currently ravaging crops and farmland. Compounding an already fragile situation, locusts are feasting on crops that could otherwise feed 280,000 people for six months. The locust outbreak originated in Yemen in December. Instead of dying out like expected, the locust numbers increased exponentially when nonseasonal rains allowed for breeding. Adult locusts cause incredible damage to crops: they can eat their body weight daily and can fly up to 93 miles to find food. If they are not controlled, the loss of crops will be severe. Currently, Somalia plans to use biopesticides — a fungus which produces a toxin meant to only kill locusts and related grasshoppers — to get rid of the swarms. Due to the unstable nature of Somalia’s government, using planes to spray insecticide from the air is impossible, so the biopesticide is a reliable alternative.
- Somalia is suffering from a 10-year-long drought. For the past decade, drought has severely affected Somalia’s largely agricultural population and contributed to hunger in Somalia. During this time, Somalia only had one proper rainy season. Thus, in 2011 the drought became so bad it triggered a famine. For a famine to occur, three things must happen: a failure of food production, an inability to access food and a failure of governments and international donors to respond. First, the drought killed off crops and livestock, so people lost their income and purchasing power; they were no longer able to obtain food. Lastly, donors did not react quickly enough or provide as much aid as was needed — the U.N. only raised $200 million out of the needed $1 billion. Because of this “triple failure,” this famine killed around 260,000 people. So when the drought worsened in 2017 – 2019, the response, while still not adequate, was enough to keep the situation from turning into a famine. However, 6.7 million people were still left without access to food. Cholera, diarrhea and measles outbreaks accompanied the drought, and because people were dehydrated and weak from hunger these outbreaks had a heavy toll, infecting more than 16,000 people.
- Seasonal rains turn into destructive flash floods. By April 2020, the seasonal Gu’ rains, which last from April through June, flooded more than 27 districts and caused the Shabelle and Juba Rivers to overflow. The floods affected close to 1.2 million people and displaced 436,000. While the Gu’ rains are expected — and are often a respite from the long-lasting droughts — they are often destructive. In the Doolow district alone, floods destroyed 1,200 farms and 12,000 hectares of farmland. This kind of rainfall does not help Somalia against its drought, but instead overwhelms communities and causes even more destruction.
With upcoming elections, Somalia has an opportunity to take a step forward into peace and stability. While the locust swarms, drought and floods threaten to undermine Somalia’s future, a stronger government will be able to slow conflict and bring security back, allowing for better management of resources to prevent hunger in Somalia from continuing.
– Zoe Padelopoulos