The new study offers the first official death toll from the Somalia drought, which has plagued the country for five consecutive years.
Around 43,000 people may have died in Somalia in 2022 from the ongoing drought that has been affecting the Horn of Africa in recent years, a new report by the United Nations and the Somali government has suggested.
Last year’s drought-related excess deaths are almost double those occurring in the first year of the 2017-2018 drought. Death rates are expected to keep rising in the first half of 2023, with “an additional 135 people […] projected to die each day due to the current crisis.”
Five consecutive years of failed rainy seasons, the longest drought in recent memory, have seriously exacerbated the country’s food and water supplies, leaving an estimated five million people with acute food shortages and nearly two million children at risk of malnutrition.
Earlier this month, a UN assessment said that life in the country remains “extremely critical,” though it no longer projected famine for the worst-hit population between April and June, unless rains underperform and humanitarian assistance is not sustained.
The research, released Monday by the Federal Ministry of Health & Human Services, World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF, suggests that half of the deaths might have occurred among children under the age of 5. Areas around the Bay, Bakool, and Banadir regions in the south-centre of the country are those bearing the most brunt of the Somalia drought and are believed to have had the highest death rates.
“We are racing against time to prevent deaths and save lives that are avoidable. We have seen, deaths and diseases thrive when hunger and food crises prolong. We will see more people dying from the disease than from hunger and malnutrition combined if we do not act now,” said WHO Representative to Somalia and Head of Mission, Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik.
“The cost of our inaction will mean that children, women and other vulnerable people will pay with their lives while we hopelessly, helplessly witness the tragedy unfold.”
The ongoing Somalia drought, climate change-induced extreme weather events, political instability, and the socio-economic aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to worsen the already precarious public health. Nearly half of the population – about 7.9 million people – are in need of humanitarian assistance and the UN 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan is seeking US$2.6 billion to meet their priority needs.
The report includes a call to action, calling for a multisectoral humanitarian response and large-scale immunisation campaigns to to reduce preventable deaths.
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