Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Somalia hunger

Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary-General Jan Egeland listens to a woman speaking during a visit to drought-stricken Somalia on June 21, 2022. (Photo: Jan Egeland/Twitter)

Children 'Dying Before Our Eyes': Aid Workers Plea for Help as Famine Unfolds in Somalia

"Already 1.5 million children below the age of five are malnourished," said one United Nations official, "and we expect that 356,000 of these may not survive through the end of September."

Brett Wilkins

International aid workers are issuing desperate pleas for help this week as severe climate-driven drought coupled with critically depleted global food supplies due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine are fueling a slide into "catastrophic famine" in Somalia that could claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of children by summer's end.

"If an intervention does not happen as expected, and quickly, we will inevitably witness the mass death of children in the coming months."

"Already 1.5 million children below the age of five are malnourished, and we expect that 356,000 of these may not survive through the end of September this year," Adam Abdelmoula, the United Nations' humanitarian coordinator for Somalia—which has suffered an unprecedented four consecutive failed rainy seasons—said during a visit to Dolow in the south near the Ethiopian border.

"Acute malnutrition is about to increase unless we scale up our response plan in a major way," he added. "Some 7.1 million Somalis are in need of food assistance. If the fifth rainy season fails, this number will increase significantly."

Hirsia Farag Abdi, an 80-year-old Somali woman from Harhaar, said in a video recently published on TikTok that "we don't have strength and livestock anymore."

"We had our animals—goats, camels, as well as a house," she added. "All these have been destroyed by the drought... My only hope is my grandchildren and the few goats we have left."

Jamal Abdi Sarman, communications officer at the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund, warned of "looming famine in the foreseeable future."

"If an intervention does not happen as expected, and quickly, we will inevitably witness the mass death of children in the coming months," he said.

Referencing the 2010-2012 famine that killed more than a quarter of a million people in Somalia—half of them children under the age of five—Claire Sanford, deputy humanitarian director of the private charity Save the Children, told The Guardian:

I can honestly say in my 23 years of responding to humanitarian crisis, this is by far the worst I've seen, particularly in terms of the level of impact on children. The starvation that my colleagues and I witnessed in Somalia has escalated even faster than we feared.

We have genuinely failed as an international community that we have allowed the situation to get to the extent it is at the moment. In 2011, we vowed as a community that we would never, ever let this happen again. And yet we have failed in that promise.

Visiting Somalia, Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, tweeted he was "shocked by the devastating impact" of the drought, which he attributed largely to a "changing climate" the Somali people "did nothing to cause."

In a letter to leaders of G7 nations ahead of a meeting this weekend in Germany, Michael Dunford, the United Nations World Food Program's (WFP) regional director for East Africa, said children are starving to death "before our eyes," and that only a "massive" funding and humanitarian effort can avert an even greater catastrophe.

"We need money, and we need it now," he said. "Will we be able to avert [a famine in Somalia]? Unless there is... a massive scaling-up from right now, it won't be possible, quite frankly."

Last year, G7 leaders endorsed a Famine Prevention Compact, in which they pledged $7 billion to support anti-hunger efforts around the world. However, experts protested that not enough money was allocated to the Horn of Africa.

WFP says 89 million people in eastern Africa are now considered "acutely food insecure"—a 90% increase from 2021.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, now in its fourth month, has wreaked havoc on global food supplies and prices. Last week, WFP executive director David Beasley said that "it is a very, very frightening time."

"We are facing hell on Earth if we do not respond immediately," he added, citing "riots in Sri Lanka and protests in Tunisia, Pakistan, and Peru," as well as "destabilization taking place in places like Burkina Faso, Mali, and Chad."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Naomi Klein: The US Is in the Midst of a 'Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup'

"The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over," warned the author of "The Shock Doctrine."

Jake Johnson ·


Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·


Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·


Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo