In Somalia, a drought killed 110 people in just 48 hours
The signs of crisis are everywhere. Each day, thousands flood the capital in search of food. More than 7,000 internally displaced people sought help from one feeding center in just a day, a level of demand the center cannot possibly meet. In the country’s north, local leaders say that 65 percent of livestock have died. Without rain, there is no food for the camels and goats to graze, and no milk for the children.
On Saturday, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire offered another stark fact to illuminate the magnitude of the country’s drought. At least 110 people had died in the previous 48 hours in a single region of Somalia, he said in a statement. Most of the victims were women and children, killed by waterborne diseases. People know the water isn’t safe to drink, but they have no choice: There are no other sources.
“Outbreaks of diarrhea and some cases of measles are striking down people, mainly children already weakened by hunger,” Abdullahi Omar Mohamed, chairman of the village of Ow-diinle in Bay region, told local news media.
It is the first death-toll announcement the country has offered as it braces for the famine almost certain to come. More than 5 million Somalis are in immediate need of food, the United Nations estimates.
The expected famine comes after three years of drought, particularly in the country’s north. Crop production and livestock numbers have dropped precipitously, and thousands of people have fled to major cities in search of food and sanctuary. The lack of clean water means that outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases are a near-certainty.
The ongoing violence has made even small improvements hard. Somalia has been wracked by decades of strife, and hundreds of thousands of people still live in camps for internally displaced people.
Much of the country, including the capital, Mogadishu, is under regular attack by the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared a state of disaster in the past week. He warned that widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks.” Hope for an easy remedy, though, is in short supply. The United Nations says it needs $6 billion in the next few weeks to prevent a calamity. So far, it has received half a billion dollars.