An estimated 43,000 Somalis died during the country’s longest ever drought last year, half of them likely to have been children under five years old, according to a new report.
It is the first official death toll announced in the drought withering large parts of the Horn of Africa.
A further 18,000-34,000 will die in the first six months of this year as the impact of the drought continues, experts warn.
“The current crisis is far from over,” says the report, published on Monday by the World Health Organization and the United Nations children's agency and carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are facing a sixth consecutive failed rainy season while rising global food prices and the war in Ukraine complicate the hunger crisis.
Happening now; Today, @MoH_Somalia released the official report on mortality estimates due to drought in Somalia in 2022 conducted by @WHOSom & @unicefsomalia with the LSH&TM. Read the “from insight to action: examining mortality in Somalia https://t.co/tDqLdV1QP1 pic.twitter.com/M5HO6aZizR
— WHO Somalia (@WHOSom) March 20, 2023
The UN and partners earlier this year said they were no longer forecasting a formal famine declaration for Somalia for now but called the situation “extremely critical.”
Famine is the extreme lack of food and a significant death rate from outright starvation or malnutrition combined with diseases like cholera. A formal famine declaration means data shows more than a fifth of households have extreme food gaps, more than 30% of children are acutely malnourished and over two people out of 10,000 are dying every day.
Research by @LSHTM shows #Somalia's drought crisis caused 43 000 excess deaths in 2022, half of them children under 5 years.
Crude Death Rate is also expected to increase through June 2023, according to the study commissioned by FGS, FAO, UNICEF & WHO https://t.co/bbkdeRKinh pic.twitter.com/e2RVqkT0gp
— Will Swanson (@willswanson) March 20, 2023
“The risk of famine still remains,” UN resident coordinator in Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, said on Monday.
Some humanitarian and climate officials this year have warned that trends are worse than in the 2011 famine in Somalia in which a quarter of a million died.
“The death rate was increasing as the year came to a close,” LSHTM professor Francesco Checchi said. The hardest-hit populations are in Bay and Bakool in southwest Somalia and displaced people who have fled to the capital, Mogadishu.
“This is in spite of Somalis’ own resilience, support by Somali civil society within and outside the country and a large-scale international response,” he added. “Far from being scaled back, humanitarian support to Somalia must if anything be increased.”
Co-author Oliver Watson added: “The unrelenting droughts have created one of the most severe hunger crises in 70 years.”
Millions of livestock have died in the current crisis compounded by climate change and insecurity as Somalia battles thousands of fighters with al-Qaida's regional affiliate, al-Shabab. The UN migration agency says 3.8 million people are displaced, a record high.
Countries in East Africa, in particular, depend on the deal – like Somalia, which currently receives over 90% of its grain from Ukraine and is on the verge of famine.
— David Miliband (@DMiliband) March 18, 2023
A food security assessment released last month said nearly a half-million children in Somalia are likely to be severely malnourished this year.
Associated Press contributed to this report.