The United Nations Refugee Agency warns an estimated 5.4 million people affected by worsening drought in Somalia will likely face severe food shortages by next month without immediate lifesaving assistance.
The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that climate-related droughts are occurring with greater frequency in Somalia. This, it says, is making things worse for the millions of people already displaced and deprived of essential necessities by the country’s chronic instability and conflict.
This latest disaster comes just as Somalis were beginning to recover from the devastating impact of a two-year drought that ended in 2017.
That event forced more than a million people to flee their homes in search of food, water and work. The UNHCR reports the current drought has displaced nearly 50,000 people so far this year.
Agency spokesman Babar Baloch says food shortages already are biting. He warns time is running out to help those affected, as the impact of the worsening drought is likely to peak by next month. He said the condition of some 2.2 million people is particularly severe, and they likely will need urgent emergency assistance.
“The risk of death and the dangers that the displaced population or the affected population are facing are real,” he told VOA. “If aid is not provided in time, people could start losing their lives. Let us not forget that in the past years that with efforts of the international community, local authorities and everyone else, famine has been avoided.”
But not every year. In 2011, drought and famine in Somalia killed more than one-quarter of a million people, half of them children under age five.
U.N. agencies agree many lessons have been learned from that tragedy. Baloch says many of the support mechanisms that since have been successfully used to combat such disasters could be quickly reactivated to deal with this crisis.
Australian researchers are looking to Africa and the Middle East for drought- and heat-resistant crops as many grain farmers face another failed season.
Key farming regions in southern Queensland are forecast to miss their third winter grain crop in a row. The national crop this year is expected to be about 10 percent below the 10-year average.
Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation, the GRDC, is carrying out a global search for climate-proof grains. GRDC’s northern panel chairman, John Minogue, says crops in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa could be adapted to help farmers become more resilient in the face of a warming climate and less rainfall.
“We have got people in Syria, in Africa, in all of the parts of the world, which have historically had these crops grown for thousands of years,” he said. “We have a lot of investments in people on behalf of the grain growers searching the world for plants that are resistant to drought and also that are able to handle stress conditions and heat, and identifying the germplasm [genetic material] that we can then integrate into the Australian crops.”