The first U.S. Cabinet member to visit Somalia since 2015 urged the world’s distracted donors Sunday to give immediate help to a country facing deadly famine, which she calls “the ultimate failure of the international community.”
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, heard perhaps the starkest warning yet about the crisis: Excess deaths during what is now Somalia’s longest drought on record will “almost certainly” surpass those of the famine formally declared in the country in 2011, when more than a quarter-million people died.
“Many of the traditional donors have washed their hands and focused on Ukraine,” the U.N. resident coordinator in Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, told Thomas-Greenfield during a briefing in Mogadishu.
While the U.S. ambassador declined to openly “name and shame” in her speech calling on donors for more help, saying, “The countries know who we’re talking about,” the U.N. resident coordinator didn’t hesitate.
She spelled out the fatal risks in the weeks ahead if other nations don’t step up. “According to the U.N., without contributions from other donors, critical food and nutrition assistance supporting 4.6 million people in Somalia will end” by April, Thomas-Greenfield said.
That will be just as a sixth consecutive rainy season in the parched country is expected to fail. The U.S. is “deeply alarmed” by the dire situation, she told humanitarian officials.
Tens of thousands of people are thought to have died in the drought that also affects parts of neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya. More than a half-million children under the age of 5 in Somalia alone have severe acute malnutrition, according to the U.N. children’s agency. Millions of livestock essential to families’ health and wealth have died.
While the latest data assessment released last year found that Somalia had not met the benchmarks for a formal famine declaration, the U.N. and U.S. have made clear that the limited humanitarian aid has only delayed the worst.
Almost 2 million hungry people in Somalia are at the crisis point where “bodies start to consume themselves,” a Western humanitarian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
There are now 2.7 million more people in need than during Somalia’s last famine in 2011, the official added.