More than 200,000 Somalis are suffering catastrophic food shortages and many are dying of hunger, with that number set to rise to over 700,000 next year, according to an analysis by an alliance of U.N. agencies and aid groups.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which sets the global standard for determining the severity of food crises, said its most acute level, “IPC Phase 5 Famine”, had been temporarily averted but things were getting worse.
“They have kept famine outside of the door but nobody knows for how much longer,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson of the U.N. humanitarian office (OCHA).
“That people are dying from hunger, there’s no doubt about it, but I cannot put a number on it,” he told a news briefing in Geneva after the latest IPC analysis on Somalia came out.
A two-year drought has decimated crops and livestock across Horn of Africa nations, while the price of food imports has soared because of the war in Ukraine.
In Somalia, where 3 million people have been driven from their homes by conflict or drought, the crisis is compounded by a long-running Islamist insurgency that has hampered humanitarian access to some areas.
The IPC had previously warned that areas of Somalia were at risk of reaching famine levels, but the response by humanitarian organisations and local communities had staved that off.
“The underlying crisis however has not improved and even more appalling outcomes are only temporarily averted. Prolonged extreme conditions have resulted in massive population displacement and excess cumulative deaths,” it said.
Somalia’s last famine, in 2011, killed a quarter of a million people, half of them before famine was officially declared.
Fearful of a similar or even worse outcome this time, humanitarian chiefs were quick to say the situation was already catastrophic for many Somalis.