UN says 5 million suffer from hunger in Somalia

The risk to people affected by hunger in Somalia increases amid worsening climate change and an ongoing civil conflict between the militant group Al Shabaab and the government.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An unidentified severely malnourished Somali refugee child rests inside a ward at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital at the Dagahale refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, July 28, 2011.

Four out of ten people in Somalia are facing hunger due to flooding and conflict, the UN has stated, with the majority of those affected being children who are suffering from poor health. 

“The situation is of serious concern and comes at a time when we are already facing multiple drivers of needs, including drought and risk of flooding, conflict and access constraints as well as increased refugee returns,” the United Nations said in a statement. 

Conflict between the Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al Shabaab and the African Union-backed Somali government has brought the number of those without sufficient access to food up to five million, having risen by 300,000 since February.

Additionally, a great number of refugees have returned to Somalia from Dadaab, Kenya - the world’s largest refugee camp - amidst plans by the Kenyan government to close the camp by November. However, poor rainfall in south central Somalia has reduced the production of cereal. 

The hunger problem is likely to worsen due to La Nina, the weather phenomenon that causes cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. La Nina will hit Somalia during the October to January period, affecting its short rainy season, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

According to the UN, over 300,000 children under five are acutely malnourished with more than 50,000 severely malnourished and at risk of death unless they receive therapeutic feeding. This is not the first time that Somalia has been struck with a hunger problem, with a 2011 famine killing 260,000, most of whom were children. 

Hunger is a particularly prevalent issue amongst the 1.1 million internally displaced persons in Somalia who are currently living in “appalling conditions,” according to the UN.