UN: Over 2M Somalis at risk of starvation after months-long drought

UN: Over 2M Somalis at risk of starvation after months-long drought
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The United Nations estimated that over 2 million people in Somalia are at risk of “acute food insecurity” amid a severe drought if international aid is not delivered to the country quickly enough.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock announced Tuesday he was allocating $45 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to beef up food and nutrition assistance, safe water provision, livelihoods protection and other urgent humanitarian support in the Horn of Africa, with $30 million going specifically to Somalia. 

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Lowcock said that out of a population of 15 million, 3 million Somalis are struggling to meet minimum food requirements and that over 2.2 million risk starvation by September, which would mark over a 40 percent jump since January. 

“CERF’s rapid response allocation will allow humanitarian organizations to quickly scale up assistance to save lives, especially in Somalia, where drought has intensified faster than has been seen over the last decade, leading to a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation,” said Lowcock. “What was forecast to be an average rainy season in Somalia is now one of the driest on record in over 35 years.” 

“Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases. Aid agencies in Somalia are also overstretched and grappling with a severe lack of funding.” 

The U.N.’s funding will also help boost efforts to combat the drought’s impacts in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Lowcock noted aid agencies launched a draft plan last month that calls for $710 million in assistance following below-average rainfall late last year and this year. Somalia’s overall Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019, requiring $1.08 billion, is only 22 percent funded, and the Somalia Humanitarian Fund is already depleted.

The UN official said a system that would allow funds to be granted based on early drought warnings could help blunt the impacts of future crises.

“We need to move to a system where we act much earlier on the warning signs of drought and hunger so that we can cut response times and costs and reduce deaths and human suffering,” Lowcock said.