Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

In July 2011, the United Nations declared a famine in Somalia that attracted the attention of major news outlets around the world. This statement was issued during the holy month of Ramadan, which gave it additional resonance in the Muslim world and contributed to massive fundraising efforts.

While the UN’s announcement helped mobilize people and governments around the world, the international community considered it too late, leading to a delayed scaling up of humanitarian aid. It is estimated that 258,000 people – mainly women and children – lost their lives because of global action.

At the end of 2016, warnings of another potential famine were issued, sounding alarm bells in donor capitals. Memories of the tragic events of 2011 were still fresh, which helped mobilize funds earlier compared to 2011, though not early enough, as some 45,000 people died.

Given these painful experiences from the past, we are now writing to warn against a possible new famine. Based on observations, available public reporting and consultations within our networks – both Somali and internationally – we have gathered enough evidence to indicate that a significant part of the Somali population is facing a major food crisis. We are extremely concerned that the humanitarian system will be too slow to respond, which in turn could lead to the deaths of many Somalis.

Echoes of 2011

In 2012-’13, we did research on the 2011 famine, which confirmed that the UN declaration of famine came too late. The famine itself probably started in March or April of that year and was caused by a combination of factors, including successive droughts, high world and domestic food prices, and a very poor local grain harvest.

There was also politics involved: at the time, the militant group, al-Shabab, was involved in conflict with the burgeoning Somali government and its international supporters. Its designation as a terrorist group limited the reach of Western humanitarian aid to regions it controlled.

Today, similar to what happened in 2011, there were at least two consecutive, severe rain failures combined with a very poor grain harvest. In addition, Somalia is plagued by political instability and conflict, while the international community is being distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which could delay the humanitarian response and reduce the availability and distribution of funds.

We are also already seeing the early signs of potential famine in terms of social mobilization and migration. In our research, we documented how businesses and religious leaders in Somalia and Kenya before the famine declaration in 2011 were very active in mobilizing funds and sending those resources to struggling people. Mosques have become conduits for money raised abroad.

On the ground, families sent children and the elderly to villages where help was more likely to arrive, while boys and men often left with the pets they kept trying to keep them alive. When people had no further options in their local areas, they walked for days to Ethiopia and Kenya to seek help. Many people died on these journeys.

Today we see the same patterns re-emerge. Somalis at home and abroad have already responded to the developing crisis. The epicenter of the current drought appears to be in what is known as the Mandera Triangle, where the corners of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya meet. But there are other areas suffering as well, including on both sides of the Somalia-Kenya border, as well as the main grain-growing areas in the southwestern state.

Aydrus There, the head of the Kenyan-Somali NGO, Wasda, who works in the Somali-Kenya border areas, told us that cattle herds have already been eradicated and that fundraising, especially for water trucks and food, among Somali businesses and diaspora communities of these areas started about five to six months ago. He confirmed that there was almost total failure of the seasonal rains known as the Gu, which normally fall from April to June. The Deyr rain, which falls from October to December, has also now failed.

There’s NGOs have received small and sporadic support from some international donors due to the drought. He claims he has never seen anything like it in 30-40 years, with wildlife invading people’s homes in search of water.

In the north of Jubbaland, Paul Healy, the country director of the Irish NGO Trócaire, which supports the local health care system, told us that many people in a desperate state enter villages from the countryside, with some women and children dying on the way . , before reaching health facilities.

Camel deaths in many parts of Somalia are also reported and are another indication of the seriousness of the situation. Camels are the most resilient animals when it comes to drought conditions; cattle, sheep and goats all die before they do.

One of the authors of this article, who recently traveled to Puntland, in the far northeast of Somalia, noted that religious leaders are currently mobilizing the business community and government to raise funds and support rural populations. Although Puntland is not in the epicenter of the drought and is a more stable area with significant responsiveness, it also feels the effects of this severe drought.

Our colleague was so moved by a local sheikh’s call for help in a mosque that he immediately sent money to his family members in the Somalia-Kenya border area where he came from and from where he received more calls than usual from distant relatives , a sure sign of unusual stress.

In November, a widely respected Nairobi-based religious leader, Sheikh Umal, also began calling on people to raise money to support drought-stricken populations in Kenya and Somalia. Its mosque was a prominent hub for fundraising and coordination in 2011.

Dangerous delay

We can not be 100 percent sure that there will be a famine in 2022, but there are already ominous signs and we know that given the current conditions in Somalia and abroad, the humanitarian response could possibly be severely delayed.

Given the rain failures and the early reports of severe food shortages, it makes much more sense to act early and mobilize resources now, to save lives, protect livelihoods and avoid organizing a costly response to famine when it’s too late.

Regardless of the specific severity of the crisis, the deployment of humanitarian aid will now help large numbers of people whose situation is already dire and will undoubtedly worsen. One of the lessons of the 2011 famine is that there should be a greater focus on preventing famine.

We realize that today’s global and local political conditions are complex and may delay the decisions that need to be made to release funds. Internationally, the COVID-19 pandemic has put enormous pressure on governments and aid organizations.

The Horn of Africa is also facing a new wave of instability due to the crisis in Sudan and the civil war in Ethiopia. Somalia’s own government and political elite are engaged in political strife and an election process that diverts time and money from social provision for the general population.

This contributes to an atmosphere in which a lack of trust over data, different perspectives on areas with the greatest need, competing institutional interests and a lack of reliable organizations (both international and local) to work with, exacerbate the situation . The politicization of data and information is unfortunately all too common. International organizations, including the United Nations, are struggling to manage these pressures and influences and to reach the right people on the ground.

However, there is no doubt that the situation is already serious and will significantly worsen. The long, dry season – the Jilaal – is only just beginning and the next rain is a good four months away. The predictions for this rain – the Gu – are also not promising. That rain can bring some relief, especially to shepherds, but for agricultural communities, their harvest is still far more than six months away. This is the third severe drought event in 10 years, a likely indication of the impact of climate change in the Horn of Africa.

If we want to avoid repeating previous mistakes, we must act now. In addition to the efforts of the Somali diaspora, the international community must also act urgently. The funds needed are few compared to those already mobilized to mitigate the pandemic, but it could go a long way in saving Somali lives.

Early action can also help set a precedent for the prevention of famine, which should be established as a standard humanitarian response, especially given climate change-related projections for the worsening of water scarcity in Somalia and the Horn of Africa as a whole.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial views.

Source link

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *