Nearly 840,000 Children are Going Hungry as Somalia Declares State of Emergency over Locust Invasion

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (February 4, 2021) – Save the Children is deeply concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian situation for hundreds of thousands of young children in Somalia, as the country reels from a second and potentially deadlier wave of desert locusts[1], an uptick in violence, and the ongoing impact of COVID-19. The situation has become so dire the Agriculture Ministry declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.

New figures released today reveal up to 2.7 million people in Somalia face acute food shortages (IPC Phase 3 or worse) through mid-2021, including approximately 839 000 children under five likely to be acutely malnourished. A further 143,000 children are likely to be severely malnourished, requiring urgent medical treatment to survive.

These disturbing figures are suspected to be the result of a combination of the resurgent swarms of desert locusts, the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing conflict, and climate shocks including drought and floods.

Save the Children is warning that without an urgent injection of funds into humanitarian programs, thousands of children’s lives will be at risk.

Somalia was already one of the least prepared countries on earth for the impacts of a pandemic, ranked bottom on the 2019 Global Health Security Index in its vulnerability to biological threats. While the official death count from COVID-19 stands at 132[2], nearly non-existent testing means the true impact may never be known. The pandemic has obliterated the country’s economic base of diaspora remittances, as well as impacting livestock sales, another economic bedrock.

Weather predictions point toward a second consecutive season of below-average rainfall from March to May due to the La Niña effect, which may push already-desperate families to the brink of starvation. 

An uptick in violence has also had devastating consequences for children. In an attack last week, at least eight children lost their lives and many others wounded when a bomb went off in the Golweyn area, south of Mogadishu.

Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, Country Director for Save the Children in Somalia, said:

“These figures reflect what our teams are reporting from the ground. In Dinsoor, in southern Somalia, our screening teams are seeing substantial increases in malnutrition and childhood illnesses. Malnourished children are more vulnerable to illness, including cholera and malaria. If the situation continues to deteriorate at this scale, and the rains fail on the back of the La Niña effect expected in March, we will have a humanitarian catastrophe in our hands in the next months.

“Save the Children calls upon the international community to release funds urgently to avert a humanitarian crisis. Children in Somalia deserve so much better than this.

“Last week we were horrified to learn of the deaths of at least eight Somali children in a senseless attack. These attacks reverse the country’s efforts to consolidate peace and security and constitute a major threat to children in the country. We urgently call upon all parties to the ongoing conflict to respect the rights of children. 2020 was already am incredibly challenging year for Somali children, and all efforts must be directed at sparing them further horrors in 2021.”

[1] FAO https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/somalia-declares-state-of-emergency-over-locusts/2133218

[2] At 4 February 2021. https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus/country/somalia?country=~SOM#confirmed-deaths

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