After five consecutive failed rainy seasons, the number of fatalities could rise in the first half of 2023, research shows.
Somalia’s ongoing record drought may have killed as many as 43,000 people last year, and half of them were children under the age of five, according to a report released by the United Nations government and agencies.
The research released Monday was the first attempt to estimate the number of deaths across the country in a crisis that experts warn is more severe than the country’s last major drought in 2017 and 2018.
Led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the study warned that the number of fatalities could rise in the first half of 2023, as total deaths for this period were forecast from 18,100 to 34,200.
“These results paint a stark picture of the devastation the drought has brought on children and their families,” UNICEF’s Wafaa Saeed said when presenting the report in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
Mamunur Rahman Malik, a World Health Organization representative in Somalia, said the international community is in a race against time to prevent avoidable deaths and save lives.
“We’ve seen deaths and disease boom while hunger and food crises persist,” he said in a statement. “If we don’t act now, more people will die from the disease than from hunger and malnutrition combined. The cost of our inaction will mean that children, women and other vulnerable people will pay with their lives as we hopelessly, helplessly witness the unfolding tragedy.”
The UN says five consecutive failed rainy seasons in Somalia have left five million people with acute food shortages and nearly two million children at risk of malnutrition.
In December, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, which sets the global standard for determining the severity of a food crisis, said the famine some experts expected had been temporarily averted but warned that the situation was getting worse.
Francesco Checci, a co-author of the study, said the lack of a famine indication should not distract from the magnitude of the crisis.
“What we’re actually showing is that it’s not time to slow down in terms of funding and humanitarian aid,” he said.