The first U.S. Cabinet member to visit Somalia since 2015 called on distracted donors to help a country facing deadly famine, which she called “the ultimate failure of the international community.” As the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, heard perhaps the starkest warning yet: Somalia’s longest drought will almost certainly result in more deaths than the famine that formally began in 2011, when more than a quarter million people died.
Humanitarian officials say the world is looking elsewhere this time. “Many traditional donors have washed their hands and focused on Ukraine,” the UN’s resident coordinator in Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, told Thomas-Greenfield. The U.S. ambassador declined to publicly “name and shame” donors in her speech.
Last year, only 10% of the humanitarian response plan for Somalia was funded by the European Union, Abdelmoula told The Associated Press. A total of $74 million was provided by the EU, while the United Kingdom contributed $78 million, according to United Nations statistics. Saudi Arabia contributed $22 million and Japan gave $27 million.
As of the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year, the United States has funded roughly 80%, giving $1.3 billion to Somalia. On Sunday, the ambassador announced another $40 million. According to reports, tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the drought, which is also affecting parts of Ethiopia and Kenya. More than half a million Somali children under five suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to the United Nations children’s agency. Millions of families have lost livestock essential to health and wealth.
The latest data assessment released last year found that Somalia had not met the benchmarks for a formal famine declaration. However, the UN has made clear that limited humanitarian aid has only delayed the catastrophe. According to a Western humanitarian official speaking on condition of anonymity, almost 2 million Somalis are at the point where their bodies are consuming themselves. The official said that 2.7 million more people are in need than during the 2011 famine.