As diplomats gather in London for Somalia humanitarian conference tomorrow, the lives of 2.7 million people hang in the balance.
“The international community saved thousands of lives in Somalia last year, and helped stop a famine before it could happen. But less humanitarian aid now threatens to throw the country back into a deeper crisis, even towards catastrophe,” says the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Regional Director, Nigel Tricks. “Half a million people today are on the brink of famine.”
On 6 March, diplomats from governments, donor agencies, the UN and other delegates are meeting in London for the High-Level Event for the Humanitarian Situation in Somalia. While the country dodged famine last year, 2.7 million people today are living in what the UN describes as crisis or emergency phases of hunger. With more drought forecast, the humanitarian community seeks USD 1.5 billion for programmes to sustain and rebuild the drought and conflict stricken country.
A catastrophe was averted last year as donors, governments and agencies heeded crisis warnings, and acted quickly to help hold off another famine. This year the situation is urgent. 5.4 million Somalis need humanitarian aid this year. Over 300,000 children under age five are acutely malnourished, including 48,000 severely malnourished children who face an increased risk of death.
“Aid works, as humanitarian aid saved countless lives in Somalia last year, but 2018 promises a new year of crisis. Somalia’s forecast includes continued drought for several regions this year. Without a focused effort by government and the international community to maintain support for Somalis at risk, thousands of people may be pushed back over the edge,” warned Tricks.
Besides the drought, conflict and insecurity are major factors of the current crisis. More than 1.1 million people fled their homes due to drought and conflict last year, adding to the one million people who were already displaced within the country from previous years. Beyond Somalia’s borders, an additional one million people live as refugees.