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Plan International statement as Somalia nears famine: “It should never have come to this.”

Climate Change Emergency

Today (5th September) the UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said that famine would occur in October in parts of Somalia according to the latest food security and nutrition analysis.

Sadia Allin, Head of Mission for Plan International in Somalia and Somaliland said:

It is devastating that we have reached the point where children in parts of Somalia are on the brink of famine. It should never have come to this. International action is needed more urgently than ever before. Children are already dying from hunger. Unless humanitarian aid is urgently and immediately stepped up, we face a situation where thousands more children will lose their lives needlessly and countless others will face other dangers and rights violations such as rape, violence and early marriage.

“As is so often the case, girls and young women will be the hardest hit by this crisis. When food is scarce, girls often eat less and they eat last. They are more likely than boys to be taken out of school to help find food, to face gender-based violence or to be married early to reduce the number of mouths their families need to feed. “Nothing is more painful than for a mother to watch helplessly as her child is starving. We have met mothers who don’t have a single grain to feed their children and have resorted to boiling water so the child will think they have a meal. Others have married their daughters as young as 14 years old in exchange for help.

“We have been fearing this situation for months. We now have a very brief window of time to save as many lives as possible. We urgently need more support from donors so that we can reach more children, especially girls, and their families before it’s too late.”

It is feared that by the end of 2022, 1.5 million Somalian children under the age of five (50% of Somali children) will be acutely malnourished, including 380,000 who are likely to be severely malnourished.

Women and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis, and together with elderly people account for nearly nine in 10 (87%) of those displaced by drought. Girls are also caught in a double crisis of hunger and violence in many places. In a recent Plan International needs assessment of 635 people in Somalia, girls and women interviewed said rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence were rising as food insecurity worsened. A third (34%) of people surveyed believe security risks – including rape, domestic violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage – to girls and women have increased as a result of the drought.

One 13-year-old girl living in Somalia told Plan International that her biggest fear is being sent to the city to work or being married off in exchange for money: “Whenever I see a man speaking with my mother, I get scared thinking that I am the deal.”

Plan International’s Response

  • Plan International has been responding to the drought across the Horn of Africa since the beginning of 2022 and a red alert for hunger in eight priority countries, including Somalia, is still active.
  • We are working urgently to reach children, especially girls, in both Somaliland and Somalia with life-saving support and continue to scale up our programmes.
  • Plan International Somalia is appealing for $5m towards its drought response and famine prevention programmes, which is currently underfunded by nearly $3m.
  • We are working with local partners to reach children and their families in both Somaliland and Somalia with life-saving assistance, and have reached 44,250 people with emergency assistance to date.
  • Together with our local partner TAAKULO, we are providing emergency water trucking and cash assistance using mobile money transfers so that families can purchase food and water, and access critical services such as health and education. We use cash transfers because they are a quick, effective and accountable way to provide communities with humanitarian assistance while boosting the local economy. They also have the advantage of being cheaper than typical food distributions.

Press contact: Katie.drea@plan-international.org