Five dead in militant attack in Somalia as drought sweeps country

Fighters taking over government bases, stealing weapons and vehicles – spokesman

Five people were killed during attacks by Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab in Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday, as humanitarian workers warned about a potentially catastrophic death toll from drought.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab said fighters hit government targets in four areas inside the city and another on the outskirts, taking over government bases and stealing weapons and vehicles, according to Reuters news agency.

The al-Qaeda-linked militants carry out regular attacks against the government, and international observers have warned that they may take advantage of the current political crisis, which has seen elections delayed by more than a year.

Separately, the latest Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Assessment, which was released last week, found that more than 4.1 million people across Somalia – more than a quarter of the total population – are in need of urgent humanitarian food assistance.


On Monday, Unicef said that more than 1.4 million children in Somalia were likely to suffer from acute malnutrition as a result of the ongoing drought.

"We know that humanitarian emergencies of this magnitude disproportionately affect children," said Unicef representative Angela Kearney, as the agency appealed for $7 million to procure therapeutic foods. "The numbers we are seeing this year are quite high and unless urgent measures are taken, thousands of children are at risk of dying."

The country has experienced consecutive seasons of poor and erratic rainfall, the effects of which are exacerbated by conflict. Between October to December 2021, the cumulative rainfall was 40 to 60 per cent below average across much of Somalia, according to the food security assessment, leading to crop failure or below average production. Forecasts suggest that there will also be below average rainfall from April to June this year.

Roughly 2.9 million people are thought to be displaced from their homes within Somalia, meaning they are often without community support or the necessary resources to bolster themselves against crises.

A November 2021 assessment by international charity Save the Children, which covered 15 of Somalia’s 18 regions, found the majority of families were going without meals on a regular basis and one-third of households included at least one person who had gone without food for 24 hours.

“We’re worried that the political environment globally is overshadowing the humanitarian suffering of the Somali people,” said Mohamud Mohamed, Save the Children’s Somalia country director. “There is so much hunger and so much need. The ultimate culprit is climate change. Somalia has always had droughts, and Somalis have always known how to deal with them – they struggle, they lose livestock, they count their losses, and then they bounce back. But now, the gaps between droughts are shrinking. It’s a killer cycle.”

Somalia has experienced two other serious droughts over the past decade, most seriously between 2011 and 2012 when as many as 260,000 people are thought to have died from hunger.

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council held a meeting on Somalia, where Irish ambassador to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason said that along with the "worst drought" the Horn of Africa country is in a "window of opportunity politically", and called for Somalia to finalise a plan for elections, which were supposed to be carried out by February 25th.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa