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Somalia Drought Claimed 260,000 Lives: UN

nairoBi, Kenya

The 2010-2012 drought in Somalia claimed 260,000 lives, with children bearing the brunt of hunger, water scarcity and malnutrition, according to a report launched in Nairobi on May 2.

The report was commissioned by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) to provide an accurate, scientific assessment of the impact of drought on livelihoods, ecosystems and civil order in Somalia.

It covered southern and central Somalia, which suffered the most due to weak response mechanisms and instability that undermined humanitarian interventions.

“An estimated 4.6 percent of the population and 10 percent of children under 5 died in Southern and Central Somalia from October 2010 to April 2012, when famine had reached the peak. Mortality peaked at about 30,000 deaths per month between May and August 2011,” the report found.

Heads of relief agencies who spoke at the report’s launch said concrete data that capture the impacts of famine on the population are critical to inform future responses.

“The figures released today are sobering and provide better insight into what transpired in Somalia during the 2010-2012 droughts. As the first scientific study on excess mortality during the crisis, the report confirms that we should have done more before famine was declared a humanitarian crisis,” Philippe Lazzarine, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Resident Coordinator for Somalia, said during a video conference.

In addition to famine, Somalia has endured other climate-related disasters like floods. Political instability and fragile physical and ecological infrastructure made the situation worse.

Lazzarine emphasized that long-term interventions, including improved natural resources management, modernizing agricultural and pastoralism and peace-building are critical to Somalia’s reconstruction.

“There is need to address chronic vulnerability and weak resilience that is to blame for higher fatalities as a result of famine in Somalia. We need to develop long-term measures at household, local and national levels to buffer Somalia people from severe impacts of drought,” he said.

 “A combination of events triggered the famine,” the study found. “First, the year before famine was declared was the driest in East and the Horn of Africa in 60 years. The result was widespread crop failure and livestock deaths.”

It recommends long-term interventions including irrigated agriculture and rehabilitation of ecosystems like forests and watersheds to boost the adaptive capacity of local populations in the event of drought.

The full report is available online here.

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