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Report shows devastating impact of country's longest-ever drought on children: 'The death rate was increasing'

"Many of the traditional donors have washed their hands and focused on Ukraine."

Somalia's drought

Photo Credit: iStock

Somalia is facing its sixth year in a row of severe drought, setting a record for the African country, the Associated Press reported. About 43,000 people in Somalia died last year due to the dry conditions — half of them were children under 5 years old.

What's happening?

According to AP, Somalia typically experiences a yearly rainy season that replenishes water supplies throughout the region. But for six years, the rainy season has come and gone with little actual rainfall.

To formally qualify as a famine by the U.N.'s standards, 20% of households in Somalia would need to experience food shortages, 30% of children would need to go hungry, and 0.02% of the population would need to die each day, AP reported. In February, the outlet said that the U.N. did not expect Somalia to reach that point. However, the situation is still extremely dangerous for many families in the country.

Why are experts concerned?

Water reserves dry up as dry conditions continue, so the longer the drought lasts, the more people are in danger. According to AP, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine professor, Francesco Checchi told journalists that "the death rate was increasing as the year came to a close." As many as 18,000 to 34,000 people in Somalia are expected to die in the first six months of 2023.

Aside from record drought conditions, Somalia's situation is complicated by rising global food prices due to the war in Ukraine, AP explained. During a briefing in January, the visiting U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, was reportedly told, "Many of the traditional donors have washed their hands and focused on Ukraine." 

What is being done to fight Somalia's drought?

The good news is that Somalia has received some humanitarian aid, AP reported. The U.N.'s current projections for the region are not as bad as they were in December when it expected to declare formal famine conditions in several districts. Organizations like the World Food Programme have stepped up donations to try to meet Somalia's food needs.

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