New York, USA, 19 September 2022 — As world leaders gather at this year’s UN General Assembly, David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, and Abdirahman Abdishakur, Special Presidential Envoy for Drought Response for the Federal Republic of Somalia, issue a joint statement on the impending famine in Somalia and need for urgent action.
“The window to save tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives in Somalia is rapidly closing,” said Special Envoy Abdirahman Abdishakur.
“There is still time to avert massive loss of life - but by the time a famine is declared, it will be too late. More than 7 million people, over half of Somalia’s population, need emergency food aid. 300,000 people are at risk of famine unless urgent action is taken, and 2 million more people are on the verge. 54% of Somalia’s children are expected to experience acute malnutrition in the next year.
"Global leaders cannot and must not fail to meet this moment. While there has been a commendable increase in funding, particularly from the United States, the broader international community has fallen far short of the support needed to avert catastrophe. Donors cannot wait, they must step up now and ensure funding quickly reaches those on the front-lines best placed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.”
David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said:
“The world pledged to ‘never again’ allow a famine to unfold in Somalia or act so late, but little more than a decade later, without immediate international action, catastrophic famine will overtake parts of Somalia by October. In 2011, half of all deaths in the region occurred before famine was declared. It should be a source of shame that history is at risk of repeating itself. The number of people in pre-famine or famine-like conditions in Somalia has risen by 500% since the start of the year. One IRC malnutrition clinic in Somalia alone saw acute cases rise by over 800% in just four months. The IRC has operated in Somalia for decades. We commend Somalia’s creation of the Special Envoy role to mobilise the international community.We appreciate our partnership with the government as we scale up to save lives but we need further support.”
Uniquely vulnerable to food insecurity, East Africa is now mired in the lingering economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating internal conflict, rising food and fuel prices resulting from the fallout of the war in Ukraine, and the worst drought in decades compounded by climate change. While Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia make up 2% of the world’s population, they are home to 70% of the world’s most extremely food insecure.
During this UNGA high-level week, member states and multilateral agencies should mount a swift and focused international response to famine, aimed at preventing the worst impacts in Somalia.
Mr. Miliband and Mr. Abdishakur urge the international community to undertake the following steps:
- Donors should fully fund the humanitarian appeal for Somalia of $1.5 billion, less than 70% funded to date and ensure greater direct funding for frontline responders.
- The UN’s High-Level Task Force on Preventing Famine should focus its efforts on the countries at highest risk of famine, including Somalia. The Task Force should engage with key stakeholders to address future responses to potential famines and mobilise funding early on. While early warning systems accurately predict food insecurity, political will and investment are needed to build resilience through long-term, robust, multi-sector interventions which can be initiated well before a famine declaration becomes likely. Climate adaptation funding is an indispensable part of these efforts and will carry the added benefit of helping address the needs of millions of people already living with the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
- Donors, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO should support national nutrition programs in adopting new care models that simplify and decentralise malnutrition treatment, with children and caregivers at the centre. Numerous studies demonstrate that a simplified combined protocol using a single product, a simplified dosing schedule, and simplified diagnostic criteria is equally effective at curing children but more cost-effective and easier to scale than the standard, more complex approach. The inefficiencies of the current bifurcated system have resulted in an 80% treatment gap, where 4 out of 5 wasted children cannot access the treatment they need.