Drought worsens crisis in Somalia

Published: 24th January 2011

Oxfam says the new catastrophe should be the final “wake-up” call for the international community as millions are at risk of hunger

Somalia is suffering its worst drought in years and failed rains are already devastating half a million lives, international aid agency Oxfam warned today. An ongoing conflict in the country – now in its 23rd year - together with the drought has pushed hundreds of thousands of Somalis beyond their ability to cope, the agency said.

The central and southern regions are suffering the worst effects, where some areas have received 0 - 15 percent of their usual rainfall. In the Gedo region of the south, the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) is reporting 25 percent of the population to be acutely malnourished. In the nearby Juba regions, that number rises to 30 percent. Livestock herds have been decimated, forcing destitute pastoralists to migrate to towns and villages in search of aid. The failure of the Deyr rainy season, normally October to December, has left severe food and water shortages that are expected to get worse in the coming months.

“The region has been hit very hard,” said Zachariah Imeje, Program Officer for Oxfam. “Drought and hunger are so severe, that thousands have fled the relative security of their villages and headed to Mogadishu. They are desperate enough that they will risk the fighting and shelling there, in order to find food.”

“More than two million people in Somalia were already living in crisis. Additional support will be needed for them to cope, or this drought could push them over the edge into an even more acute catastrophe,” said Imeje.

The ongoing conflict makes access to the worst hit regions difficult. In some areas, access for humanitarian organizations seeking to reach those in need continues to be severely restricted due to the security situation.

Oxfam calls upon all local authorities to allow the safe and secure passage of humanitarian aid and personnel to those populations in need. It also calls upon donors to continue to provide generous support for emergency needs, and long term development in order to strengthen the livelihoods sector to prevent Somalis from falling into poverty.

“We are getting desperate,” said Osman, a pastoralist in Hiraan Province, north of the capital. “There isn’t any grass available for the animals and the shallow wells have dried. Buying water is expensive and out of reach for most of the pastoralists like me, we simply do not have money to buy the water. The worst part is this is expected to continue for the next three months. We used to move to the neighboring regions before, but this time the entire country is the same, there is no better place.”

“The animals are dying of hunger and so are the people because they were our source of survival. We can’t sell (our livestock) as there is no market. We can’t feed them, we are in a predicament,” said Osman.

With little government support to depend on, Somalia is one of the world’s poorest countries. Two decades of conflict have left infrastructure in tatters, and an entire generation has grown up without peace. More than two million people are dependent on humanitarian aid for survival and one in six Somali children suffer from acute malnutrition.

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Oxfam's work in Somalia

Drought and hunger are so severe, that thousands...are desperate enough that they will risk the fighting and shelling there, in order to find food.
Zachariah Imeje
Oxfam Program Officer

Notes to editors

  • Somalia has been without a functioning central government since January 26th, 1991.
  • There are currently 1.4 million displaced people in Somalia, as well as more than half a million Somali refugees in neighboring countries of East Africa. 
  • The Food Security Network and Analysis Unit is a network in Somalia that gathers and analyses essential food security, livelihood and nutrition data that informs both emergency and development interventions.
  • Food security, livelihood and nutrition data that informs both emergency and development interventions.
  • Somalia has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, with more than 230,000 children that are acutely malnourished. One in every seven children in Somalia dies before the age of five. 
  • International agency Oxfam has been supporting the poor people of Somalia for more than 40 years. We work with local partners, supporting activities such as emergency aid, livelihood support, water, sanitation, health and education.

Contact information

For further inquiry, please contact:

Geno Teofilo
Media Lead
Office: +254 20 374 1951/1926/1920
Mobile: +254 737 500 035
Email: geno.teofilo@oxfamnovib.or.ke

Alun McDonald
Regional Media & Communications Officer
Mobile: +254 73666 6663
Email: amcdonald@oxfam.org.uk