Famine to be declared in Somalia next month

Following four consecutive years of drought, parts of Somalia are projected to enter a famine next month based on new reports about acute food insecurity in the region. Despite warnings from humanitarian groups for years about the dire situation facing the East African country’s 16 million residents, experts say, world leaders have essentially turned the other way.

Video Transcript

ABBY MAXMAN: What's most frustrating is we've been sounding the alarm for some time. And yet, those warnings are not being heeded. And we know that you can save lives, livestock, people's resources. To take just a purely financial perspective, if you invest early, you protect the future and you protect the people's lives in the here and now.

- Across Somalia, a catastrophe is unfolding.

- Some 700 children have died in Somalia nutrition centers as the country teeters on the brink of famine.

- In Somalia alone, millions are at risk. While a famine has not been officially declared, there are many in this instance say that the label doesn't matter because officials say it's already begun.

ABBY MAXMAN: My name's Abby Maxman. I'm the President and CEO of Oxfam America. With famine, the big f-word, you see this kind of erosion over time. And so people use many coping strategies.

They reduce the number of meals they eat. They relocate. They look for alternative livelihoods and ways of living. And so what I saw when I was there visiting internally displaced persons camps, IDP in our jargon, I spoke with family after family and individual after individual and the same kind of theme of harrowing stories-- people who are incredibly resilient, and this combination of strength and struggle.

I've lived and worked in East Africa for 15 of my more than 30-year career, and I hadn't been back to Somaliland in just over 20 years. So it was an interesting kind of set of bookends of seeing what has changed and what hasn't. In terms of famine in the classical definition, it is anticipated that it will be declared next month.

Their livestock are dying. They're reducing what they eat. They're changing their lifestyle and they're moving to these displaced persons camps to live in community, but without alternative and sustainable livelihoods before them. We applaud how the international community has stepped up to support Ukraine. But when it's at the expense of, it smacks of other things.

Obviously, climate change is-- Ukraine is not the cause of what's happening there. But certainly, it is supercharging the issues that we've seen in terms of the spikes in prices of food, fuel, fertilizer that directly and indirectly affect lives and livelihoods in East Africa. So some of the basic stats-- climate change has resulted in, we know, the frequency and ferocity of droughts, floods, and heat waves, from Pakistan, to Puerto Rico, to the Horn.

But the number of disasters has increased five-fold over the past 50 years. And it's hitting hardest low income countries. So the 10 countries with the highest UN appeals related to weather extremes since 2000 have had 123% rise of people facing extreme hunger more than doubling just in the past several years.

And so Somalia and others are part of that in East Africa. And the climate injustice-- the justice piece of it can't be understated. We know that the G20 countries are amongst the most polluting nations in the world, responsible for 77% of carbon emissions. And it really dwarfs the emissions from those total of 10 countries who are most impacted by climate change, and the suffering of the pastoralist farmer I saw [INAUDIBLE] and many others.

And they're responsible for 0.13%-- really negligible, immaterial. And their suffering is disproportional. And it's a shame and a stain on our moral conscience that hundreds of thousands of people, children, who have nothing to do with what's causing this, will die.

And we know that those most marginalized are disproportionately people of color. If you go back to the Ukraine response, which, again, nobody's complaining that that's adequately funded-- we're thrilled. But we know when there's the political will and the political courage, that rich countries can act. They can take action. They can invest in climate financing because of these intersectional issues of climate and hunger.