Famine Creeps Closer in Somalia

Photo: Kate Holt

Abdi is just twenty-months old.

We came across him being comforted by his mother at a UNICEF-supported clinic for malnourished children in Buarao, Somalia. Together they had travelled from Ethiopia because of the drought, which had claimed all of their animals.

Abdi’s mother has ten other children to look after.

The red measure on the tape around this child’s upper arm indicates that they are suffering severe acute malnutrition. Photo: Kate Holt

As the situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate, more than six million people (about half of the population) are in trouble — either they have little or no food, or their resources are being quickly depleted.

Many livestock have perished in the drought. Photo: Kate Holt

Around makeshift villages, carcasses of dead livestock lie decomposing. Severe drought is now affecting all regions. Large areas have received less than 40 percent the usual rainfall. Entire villages have lost their crops or seen their livestock die.

Many families have lost the majority of their flocks. Photo: Kate Holt

Eid, pictured above, carries one of his goats down to a river for water, although these days, the river is barely a trickle. His family has lost nearly three quarters of their flock because there is no grass for them to graze.

The prices for water and locally produced food have risen dramatically, and thousands of people are on the move in search of food and water.

A woman holds up the food that she has left to feed her eight children. Photo: Kate Holt

The drought is exacerbating the country’s existing nutrition crisis. Almost 400,000 children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished, and 71,000 are in urgent need of life-saving treatment.

Hodan Mohamed comforts her son, Ahmed, who is suffering from malnutrition. Photo: Kate Holt

Hodan Mohamad is one of those seeking help. She is at a UNICEF-supported nutrition centre with her four-year-old son, Ahmed, who’s suffering from malnutrition. After getting sick from diarrhoea, Ahmed could only drink black tea, and his condition quickly deteriorated.

Hodan’s family once had 200 goats. They now only have 12, and have only white rice to eat.

A woman stands outside her temporary shelter near the town of Ainabo, Somalia. Photo: Kate Holt

In the desperate search for food and water, entire communities are staying wherever they can, housed in tiny makeshift tents. Often, their few remaining animals stay inside with them, too precious to let roam free.

A young girl sits with one of her family’s ten remaining goats inside their makeshift home. Her family were forced to leave their home in search of water and grazing; much of their livestock has died. Photo: Kate Holt

Six-year-old Tirig and her sister Saua are two of those living in a patchwork tent. Their family was forced to leave home in search of water and food. Tirig has never been to school and used to look after the family’s smaller goats, but they have since all died.

Six-year-old Tirig (right) and younger sister Saua stand outside their makeshift home. Photo: Kate Holt

Should the next rains again prove inadequate, and humanitarian assistance not reach drought-affected populations, there is a risk of famine within months.

Together, UNICEF and the World Food Programme are providing food and water vouchers for hundreds of thousands of people in drought-affected areas, and supporting life-saving services in nutrition, food security, health, education, water and sanitation.

A mother holds her child at a UNICEF nutrition unit in Burao, Somalia. Photo: Kate Holt

But time is running out.

Famine, drought, and war threaten millions of children, and the need to help them has never been greater.

To support UNICEF’s work assisting children affected by the crisis, click here.

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