Somalia Faces Second Famine in Six Years

Somalia Faces Second Famine in Six Years

Somalia is facing its second famine in six years, and this one may be even more deadly than the first. This famine is not just about food, but something far more valuable and in short supply in countries all over the world: water. Water normally goes overshadowed by food, but its importance cannot be ignored. Without clean water, epidemics like cholera are common, and the swampy remnants of water sources make for excellent malaria-infected mosquito breeding grounds. Dirty water combined with malnutrition is predicted to lead to tens of millions of deaths.

Six years ago in 2011, 260,000 Somalis died in a devastating famine. The famine arose in part from severe drought, but also from continued conflict from rival groups fighting for power in the weak state. Due to twenty years of civil war, Somalia has undergone rampant lawlessness. The al-Qaeda aligned militant group, al-Shabab, has wrested control of parts of the country from the UN backed government. Conflicts between the government and other groups lead to violence and a lack of governmental supervision--all of which amount to inhospitable environments for crops, herds, and people.

 Children are the biggest victims of these famines. In 2011, half of the quarter million deaths were children under the age of five. Somalia has one of the highest infant mortality and child malnutrition rates in the world, and the famine is expected to worsen the situation further.

But it is not just Somalia that faces this crisis; four other countries could soon experience deadly famine. Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen are all experiencing “severe food and water shortages,” leaving 20 million people facing starvation and another 50 million severely hungry. “Distress migration” is expected to rise sharply in these countries, creating millions of refugees in countries with refugee camps. The UN is announcing an “unprecedented global crisis” and with traditionally involved countries like the United States threatening to cut back on foreign aid and assistance, the death count could multiply.

Humanitarian organizations stress the need for immediate action to prevent another disaster. “Responding only when the famine is declared is very, very ineffective,” explained deputy head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Rudi Van Aaken,  after the 2011 famine. His sentiment is shared by aid workers and organizations all over the world. As Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Africa director for the International Federation of Red Crescent Societies said, “We need to act decisively, we need to act massively, and we need to act now if we are to prevent a repeat of the awful scenes of 2011.”

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