The first U.S. Cabinet member to visit Somalia since 2015 urged the world’s donors on Sunday to give immediate help to a country facing deadly famine, which she described as “the ultimate failure of the international community.”
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, heard perhaps the starkest warning yet about the crisis facing the Horn of Africa.
Excess deaths during what is now Somalia’s longest drought on record will “almost certainly” surpass those of the famine formally declared in the country in 2011, when more than a quarter-million people died.
Speaking in a meeting with the Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the U.S. Ambassador said that while a famine had been “averted the last time around” that efforts to fight it should be ramped up now in order to avoid such an incident in March-April this year.
Tens of thousands of people are thought to have already died in the drought that also affects parts of neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya.
More than a half a million children under the age of 5 in Somalia alone have severe acute malnutrition, according to the U.N. children’s agency.
Millions of livestock essential to families’ health and wealth have also died.
While the latest data assessment released last year found that Somalia had not met the benchmarks for a formal famine declaration, the U.N. and U.S. have made clear that the limited humanitarian aid has only delayed the worst.