One million displaced by Somalia drought, say aid agencies

Milestone serves as alarming development for beleaguered country ‘haunted by starvation’

One million people have now been displaced by an ongoing drought in Somalia, according to figures released this week by aid agencies. This includes 755,000 people displaced since the beginning of 2022.

“This one million milestone serves as a massive alarm bell for Somalia,” said Mohamed Abdi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director in Somalia. “Starvation is now haunting the entire country. We are seeing more and more families forced to leave everything behind because there is literally no water or food left in their villages. Aid funding urgently needs to be ramped up before it is too late.”

Four consecutive failed rainy seasons in the Horn of Africa country of roughly 16 million have been attributed largely to the impact of climate change. A fifth rainy season is expected to fail later this year.

About five million people are thought to be facing crisis levels of hunger, with this figure expected to rise above seven million in the coming months.


The situation has been exacerbated by the rocketing costs of fuel and food, which have been affected by the war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic.

An international declaration of famine in Somalia has still not been made. This would require specific criteria to be met, which sometimes are hard to prove in situations where data-gathering is impeded.

New Somali president Hassan Shaykh Mohamud recently appealed to wealthier Somalis at home and abroad to help the needy. Mr Mohamud was elected in May following an extended political crisis.

Additional support

International aid agencies have also been calling for more support.

“Vulnerable communities are the hardest hit by the effects of the climate crisis, leaving many families unprotected and increasing displacement,” said the UN Refugee Agency’s Somalia representative, Magatte Guisse, in a statement this week. “The Somalia situation was already one of the most underfunded before this latest crisis. While we and humanitarian partners are doing what we can to respond, we simply have insufficient resources. The international community must step up to save lives and support this humanitarian response.”

Somalia has experienced a series of droughts in recent decades. One-quarter of a million people are said to have died in 2011, during Somalia’s last famine, which occurred amid a prolonged drought.

A large portion of Somalia’s population are pastoralists who live off their livestock, but many have been left without any way to survive after their animals perished. Millions of livestock are thought to have died.

An international aid response is made more complicated because large parts of Somalia are controlled by Islamic militant group Al Shabaab.

Ethiopia and Kenya are also affected by the drought, with four million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity in Kenya. Nearly 10 million people are in need of aid in drought-affected regions of Ethiopia, according to the World Food Programme which says it has been forced to cut food rations and only treat 17 per cent of malnourished children and mothers across southern and southeastern Ethiopia due to severe funding shortages. About 3.4 million livestock have died in southern Ethiopia, according to the country’s government.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

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