As the United Nations announces ‘famine is at the door’ in Somalia, IRC is warning that millions of lives are at stake if world leaders do not immediately and urgently ensure committed funds reach implementing partners and frontline organisations working directly on the ground. Thousands of people have already lost their lives and millions more lives are at stake across East Africa where four seasons of inadequate rainfall have crippled livelihoods and access to food for over 36 million people.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee said,

“This is a devastating announcement. IRC teams see how the situation is worsening faster than data can show. The UN has announced a famine could occur this year -  A famine designation will be too late - people are already dying. During the last famine in Somalia in 2011, half of all deaths occurred before famine was declared. It took two years to assess the full death toll. The international community pledged to “never again” allow famine in Somalia or wait so long to act, but it is repeating the same mistake this year. The international community must adopt a no regrets approach, acting now without waiting for a declaration. We’re now in a fight to save lives—it is a fight against the clock that the international community is currently losing. A famine is entirely preventable - we already know that unprecedented fifth and sixth failed rains are predicted, meaning people will be going hungry into next year, with repercussions on health and lives lasting months, if not years. It is now up to world leaders to urgently step forward to prevent a famine by ensuring committed funds move quickly to implementing partners on the ground and scale up direct funding to NGOs. 

“During 2011 when a famine was declared, over 260,000 people died - half were children under the age of five. Children with severe malnutrition grow thin, weak and lethargic. They have near constant diarrhea. Their muscles atrophy as all but their body’s most essential systems shut down. On top of the physical symptoms, they emotionally withdraw, becoming disengaged with the world around them. In the longer term, malnutrition can lead to poor immunity to severe infections, stunted growth and restricted ability to learn.  It is a moral responsibility to prevent an entire generation from suffering these conditions.”

Harlem Désir, IRC Senior Vice President, Europe, said:

“Time is running out for the international community, including the EU, to prevent Somalia being driven into a wholly preventable famine. The EU has, so far, shown global leadership on this crisis - including partnering with France, the G7 and African Union partners to mitigate the catastrophic effects of the war in Ukraine on global food security. However, it’s clear that much greater efforts will be needed to save lives and livelihoods. If the international community fails to put this into action, the people of Somalia will bear the brunt.

"The IRC is calling on the EU to immediately take steps to protect the most vulnerable by ramping up funding - including cash assistance - to save lives and meet the needs of the men, women and children at risk of hunger and starvation. This funding must be flexible so that it can be delivered quickly to agencies working on the frontline, including NGOs who are well-placed to ensure that essential needs like food, water and cash can reach the people who need them most.

"While releasing emergency funding is a vital first step, this time it must also go hand-in-hand with significant investments into longer-term resilience building. The international community, including the EU, must learn from their past mistakes and better act in anticipation of droughts and famines, rather than in reaction to them. In order to mitigate against future shocks, the EU must continue to show leadership by investing in innovative solutions to break this deadly cycle of drought, food crisis and famine. This vital work should galvanise global action to expand social safety nets, develop fresh approaches to treating malnutrition, and build an inclusive approach to long-term food security that fully involves women and girls.”

East Africa is home to some of the IRC’s longest-running programs globally, with operations in Somalia for over 40 years, Kenya for 30 years and Ethiopia for 20 years. Today, over 2,000 IRC staff in the region are scaling up our programmes to address the current drought and rising food insecurity, including expanding to new areas to meet severe needs. IRC is providing nutrition, water and sanitation, women's protection and empowerment and cash assistance services to drought-affected populations across east Africa.