Hunger has reached unprecedented levels globally.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “A record 349 million people across 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity – up from 287 million in 2021. More than 900,000 people worldwide are fighting to survive in famine-like conditions.”
In 2023, it is likely there will not be enough food in the system, which will push global food prices higher. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributes to the rise in hunger with less wealthy countries particularly vulnerable, including those in the Horn of Africa.
After five consecutive below-average rains, the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa is expanding and deepening. According to WFP, “Regardless of how the 2023 rains perform, extremely high humanitarian needs will persist through 2023 while a full recovery from a drought of this magnitude will take years.”
A forecast from the Climate Hazard Center warned that the region is likely headed for a sixth poor rainy season this spring, from March to May 2023. The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre says below-normal rainfall is expected in most parts of the region over the next three months, which “would be an unprecedented sixth poor season for the worst hit countries – Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.”
Somalia is among the worst affected countries in the Horn of Africa. People are already dying of hunger in Somalia, but it is impossible to know precisely how many. In addition to the worsening drought, increased food prices and conflict, displacement is another major factor in pushing people into famine in Somalia.
Humanitarians fear donor fatigue compounded by multiple crises worldwide could reduce the level of funds Somalia receives in 2023. In a statement to VOA, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said, “An anticipated reduction in funding for humanitarian assistance in crucial sectors is part of the calculus for the famine projection from April to June.”
The United Nations (UN) and non-government organizations (NGOs) have issued warnings of catastrophic hunger levels for more than a year, but the warnings have been largely overlooked. The explosion in needs is outpacing the resources available. On Nov. 7, UN agencies and partners issued a joint statement calling for immediate action to prevent famine in the Horn of Africa. The statement declared that a humanitarian catastrophe is occurring, and more funds are required to save lives. Famine has become a point of political contention and is deeply divisive in Somalia.
Famine is a highly technical classification that meets specific criteria. Famine is a complex problem, but much can be done before hunger becomes a catastrophic crisis, including early action to prevent food insecurity and famine. While short-term relief is needed to save lives, protecting people’s livelihoods and restoring their dignity are also required to help avoid future famines.