Somalia is a small country located in the Horn of Africa that is probably best known for being an area of the world where piracy is rampant. The waters off Somalia’s coast played host to a hijacking incident that was immortalized in the Tom Hanks film, Captain Phillips. Somalia tends to fade into the background of the global consciousness but right now, something catastrophic is occurring in the country. Somalia is in the midst of a devastating famine.
In late 2016, rainfall was much lower than expected, which caused the grain crop to yield the lowest amount it has in a decade. Predictions for the upcoming rainy season are not optimistic. The famine is not solely caused by lack of rain. Political instability and skyrocketing food prices also contribute to the region’s hardship. The terrorist group, Al-Shabaab has a stronghold in the southern parts of Somalia, restricting the access of humanitarian efforts to the region. Al-Shabaab blocks the roads, preventing folks from seeking out food and what food there is is sometimes stolen by the terrorists. Additionally, many humanitarian organizations have restrictions in place in order to prevent their aid from falling into the hands of the militants which makes it harder for folks in need to receive life-saving aid. Al Shabaab’s presence in Somalia is severely hampering the relief the people of the region desperately need
The famine has been devastating on the Somali population. Over 6 million people are in need food assistance. While famine may bring to mind, “lack of food”, an equally devastating killer is the lack of access to clean water. Many Somalis have no access to water at all and the little water that they may be able to get is often not fit for drinking. However, they have no choice but to drink it. This has led to a rise in water-borne illnesses such as cholera. Many people are dying, not of hunger but of disease. Rapidly rising prices have a played a large role in this. In certain parts of Somalia, one used to be able to buy 5 gallons of water for about 4 cents. Now, prices have risen almost tenfold, with 5 gallons of water costing 42 cents. This may seem like a pittance but when you make less than a dollar a day and your farm animals, the source of your income, are dead, this is an astronomical amount.
The famine in Somalia is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Millions of people are in danger of dying of hunger and disease. The famine is not confined to Somalia alone. Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen are also suffering from a lack of food. That’s nearly 20 million people at risk, making this famine one of the largest humanitarian crises since WWII. In late February, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that $4.4 billion is needed by the end of march to prevent disaster. But as of March 28, only 10% of the necessary funds hae been received, according to the UN.. The US, typically one of the biggest providers of international aid, may be scaling back its humanitarian aid. President Trump’s budget calls for slashing funds for international aid in keeping with Trump’s campaign promise to spend less money abroad and more at home. Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace, says that if the US donates less to humanitarian aid, it will be difficult to catalyze donations from other donors, making it difficult to provide even minimum levels of aid.
There are many factors that are influencing the famine in Somalia and the surrounding areas. Weather as well as political and economic factors are combining to create a situation that is soon to be untenable. If aid does reach the region soon, millions of people could die.