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HUNGER AND STARVATION

Somalia is starving, let's help during Ramadhan and beyond

Political, religious, business and community leaders in and outside of Somalia must mobilising support as they’ve done in the past

In Summary

• Prolonged drought and significant crop failure and livestock losses in much of the country, combined with insecurity, are pushing millions of people to the brink. 

• It’s important for Somali nationals inside and outside the country to pull together at this critical time to support their  brothers and sisters.

Women walk past a dead donkey near a makeshift settlement in Dollow, Somalia, on April 5, 2017.
DYING LIVELIHOOD: Women walk past a dead donkey near a makeshift settlement in Dollow, Somalia, on April 5, 2017.
Image: REUTERS

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs indicates that at least 4.2 million people in Somalia need urgent life-saving humanitarian support.

By July, the number may rise to a5.4 million people — including one million children. We need to act now.

The statistics paint a dire picture, but they may not fully capture the harsh reality of actual families living right on the edge, unable to get their next decent meal or clean water, despite fasting during Ramadhan. 

 

The prolonged drought and significant crop failure and livestock losses in many parts of the country combined with other factors are pushing millions of people to the tipping point. If urgent action is not taken now, the consequences are unthinkable. Cases of severe malnutrition among children have already shot up significantly, according to OCHA and anecdotal evidence on the ground. 

The current humanitarian support by local and international actors is making a notable difference on the ground but due to funding and logistical constraints, it’s only reaching a fraction of those who desperately need help. 

It’s important for Somali nationals inside and outside the country to pull together at this critical time to support our brothers and sisters in line with our religious, cultural and humanitarian obligations. Help from the international community can supplement our efforts as we take the lead. 

Somali nationals have robustly stepped up during similar humanitarian challenges in the recent past, pooling together significant resources that have cushioned our brothers and sisters from some of the worst humanitarian situations in the Horn. It’s time to step up again and we need to do so urgently before the people reach a breaking point. 

Coming together to provide support is only one thing. It’s also vital to coordinate our humanitarian efforts to ensure we reach all deserving people on the basis of their priority needs. 

Our political, religious, business and community leaders need to take the lead in mobilising Somali nationals and others as they’ve done in the past before things spiral out of control. We need to create a sense of urgency in order to jolt people to provide the support needed by millions of people. 

In the spirit of the month of Ramadhan, when we are required to be at our most generous, let’s all extend a helping hand to those who need it most. Prophet Muhammad (May Peace be Upon Him) said, “He is not a true Muslim, one who eats his fill whilst his neighbour beside him goes hungry.”

 

Efforts of individuals who send regular, modest remittances to families across the country are going a long way in sustaining the most essential needs of many people who would otherwise be in a humanitarian crisis as well. But many of such struggling families are also surviving on the edge and may need support in the short term till things stabilise. 

Admittedly, the recurring humanitarian situation in Somalia may have generated a sense of fatigue and desensitisation among the people living in Somalia and beyond. But we need to overcome this by opening our hearts and wallets since the crisis is just as dire as in the past, or worse.

Indeed, humanitarian crises have been a recurring fixture in Somalia and the Horn region. It’s time to craft durable solutions to strengthen self-sufficiency and resilience of the people to minimise the need for external support. Other parts of the world face recurrent droughts but due to adequate planning, it doesn’t translate to a humanitarian problem as in the Horn of Africa. We need to learn from such regions. 

It’s also important to strengthen further our drought and famine early warning systems to enable a more proactive response. International humanitarian organisations. This will stimulate food production systems that will ultimately strengthen the resilience of vulnerable people.

Millions of people, including vulnerable women, children and the aged, are looking to us for support. Let’s not fail them. 

Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur Americo is a former Somalia envoy to Kenya, a former presidential candidate and founder of the Yasmin Foundation, a humanitarian and educational organisation based in Mogadishu.

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