A new report says an estimated 43,000 Somalis died during the country’s longest ever drought last year, with half of them likely to have been children under five years old.
The figure is the first official death toll announced in the drought withering large parts of the Horn of Africa where experts have also warned that a further 18,000-34,000 will die in the first six months of this year as the impact of the drought continues.
“The current crisis is far from over,” says the report, published on Monday by the World Health Organization and the United Nations children’s agency and carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are facing a sixth consecutive failed rainy season at the same time that the world is facing rising global food prices that has been exacarbated by the war in Ukraine.
Earlier this year, the UN and partners said they were no longer forecasting a formal famine declaration for Somalia for now but called the situation “extremely critical.”
Famine is the extreme lack of food and a significant death rate from outright starvation or malnutrition combined with diseases like cholera. A formal famine declaration means data shows more than a fifth of households have extreme food gaps, more than 30% of children are acutely malnourished and over two people out of 10,000 are dying every day.
“The risk of famine still remains,” UN resident coordinator in Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, said on Monday.
Some humanitarian and climate officials this year have warned that trends are worse than in the 2011 famine in Somalia in which a quarter of a million died.
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Somalia’s drought is one of the worst in its history and have created one of the most severe hunger crises in 70 years.
“The death rate was increasing as the year came to a close,” LSHTM professor Francesco Checchi said. The hardest-hit populations are in Bay and Bakool in southwest Somalia and displaced people who have fled to the capital, Mogadishu.
“This is in spite of Somalis’ own resilience, support by Somali civil society within and outside the country and a large-scale international response,” he added. “Far from being scaled back, humanitarian support to Somalia must if anything be increased.”
Millions of livestock have died in the current crisis that was made worse by climate change and insecurity as Somalia battles thousands of al-Shabab fighters . The UN migration agency says 3.8 million people are displaced, a record high.
A food security assessment released last month said nearly a half-million children in Somalia are likely to be severely malnourished this year.
Story was adapted from the Independent.