IRC Global Communication
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New York, NY, September 19, 2022 – As world leaders gather for this year’s UN General Assembly, David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, and Abdirahman Abdishakur, the President’s Special Envoy for Drought Response in the Federal Republic of Somalia, announced a make a joint statement on the impending famine in Somalia and the urgent need for action.
“The window to saving tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives in Somalia is closing fast,” Special Envoy Abdirahman Abdishakur said. “There is still time to avert massive casualties – but by the time famine is declared it will be too late. More than 7 million people, more than half of Somalia’s population, are in urgent need of food assistance. 300,000 people are at risk of starvation unless urgent action is taken, and two million more are on the verge of starvation. It is expected that 54 percent of children in Somalia will suffer from acute malnutrition in the next year. Global leaders cannot and must not miss this moment. While there has been a commendable increase in funding, particularly from the United States, the broader international community has fallen far short of the support needed to avert disaster. Donors cannot wait, they must take action now to ensure funding reaches those on the front lines quickly who are best placed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.”
David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said: “The world is committed to never again allowing famine in Somalia, or to act so late, but little more than a decade later, without immediate international action, a catastrophic one Famine will overtake parts of Somalia by October. In 2011, half of all deaths in the region occurred before famine was declared. It should be a source of shame that there is a risk of history repeating itself. The number of people in Somalia facing famine or in a famine-like situation has increased by 500% since the beginning of the year. In just one IRC malnutrition clinic in Somalia, acute cases increased by over 800% in just four months. The IRC has been active in Somalia for decades. We commend Somalia’s creation of the role of Special Envoy to mobilize the international community. We value our partnership with the government as we scale up to save lives, but we need continued support.”
East Africa is uniquely vulnerable to food insecurity and is now suffering from the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, escalating internal conflicts, soaring food and fuel prices as a result of the aftermath of the war in Ukraine and the worst drought in decades, and climate change. While Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia account for 2 per cent of the world’s population, they are home to 70 per cent of the world’s most food insecure people.
During this high-level UN General Assembly week, member states and multilateral organizations should undertake a swift and focused international response to the famine to prevent the worst effects in Somalia. Mr. Miliband and Mr. Abdishakur call on the international community to take the following steps:
Donors should fully fund the US$1.5 billion humanitarian appeal for Somalia, less than 70% of the funds so far, and ensure greater direct funding for frontline workers.
The United Nations High-Level Task Force on Famine Prevention should focus its efforts on countries most at risk of famine, including Somalia. The task force should work with key stakeholders to address future responses to potential famines and mobilize funds early. While early warning systems accurately predict food insecurity, political will and investment are needed to build resilience through long-term, robust, cross-sectoral interventions that can be launched long before famine becomes likely. Funding for climate adaptation is a vital part of this effort and will have the added benefit of helping to meet the needs of millions of people already living with the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
Donors, UNICEF, WFP and WHO should support national nutrition programs to adopt new models of care that simplify and decentralize the management of malnutrition, with a focus on children and caregivers. Numerous studies show that a simplified combined protocol with a single product, a simplified dosing schedule, and simplified diagnostic criteria is equally effective in curing children, but is less expensive and easier to scale up than the more complex standard approach. The inefficiency of the current bifurcated system has resulted in a treatment gap of 80%, with 4 out of 5 depleted children not accessing the treatment they need.