The shadow of Ukraine: deadly crises like the one in Somalia without help

MOGADISHU, Somalia –

More than two dozen children have starved to death in the last two months in a single hospital in Somalia. Dr. Yahye Abdi Garun has watched his emaciated parents stumble from rural areas hit by the driest drought in decades. And yet no humanitarian aid arrives.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, a donor preparing to give half a million dollars to a Somali aid group told its chief executive, Hussein Kulmiye, that he was redirecting the money to help Ukrainians.

And now, as Somalis fleeing drought fill more than 500 camps in the city of Baidoa, aid workers are making “horrible” decisions to help one camp and ignore 10 others, said the secretary general of the Norwegian Council for Refugees, Jan Egeland, to The Associated Press. he is “angry and embarrassed”. His group’s appeal for Ukraine was fully funded in 48 hours, but his appeal for Somalia was maybe a quarter funded, as thousands are dying.

The war in Ukraine has abruptly drained millions of dollars from other crises. Somalia, facing food shortages largely caused by the war, could be the most vulnerable. Its aid funding is less than half the level of last year, while Western donors have mostly sent more than $1.7 billion to respond to the war in Europe. Yemen, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Congo and the Palestinian territories are similarly affected.

The $2.2 billion appeal for Ukraine is nearly 80 percent funded, according to United Nations data, an “exceptional” level for any mid-year crisis, said Angus Urquhart, humanitarian and crisis leader at consultancy Development. initiatives. The smaller appeal for Somalia is only 30% funded.

This year’s global shift of money and attention is perhaps felt most urgently in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia and Kenya, where some areas could declare famine within weeks. The US Agency for International Development says regional authorities haven’t seen anything on this scale in more than 100 years. Millions of head of cattle, source of wealth and nutrition for families, have died.

People are next.

To the surprise of some exhausted Somalis who trek for days through dry landscapes to places like Mogadishu in search of help, there is often little or none.

Hawa Osman Bilal sat outside her makeshift tent with the clothes of her daughter Ifrah, who, like many vulnerable Somalis, died after the difficult journey for help.

“She was skinny and emaciated, and she died in front of me,” Bilal said. The girl was buried nearby, one of a growing number of small graves.

The caretaker of the overcrowded camp, Fadumo Abdulkadir Warsame, told the AP that some 100 families had arrived in the past week alone, increasing the population to 1,700 families. There is no food to give them. “The only thing we can allow them is bread and black tea,” he said. “There is still no help from donors.”

In a nearby warehouse run by the local organization Peace and Development Action, supported by the UN World Food Programme, stocks have withered. “The world has turned its back on Somalia to focus on Ukraine,” manager Shafici Ali Ahmed said.

The White House acknowledged the problem in a June 28 statement on global food security, saying “while the entire world will continue to be affected by Russia’s actions, the most immediate needs will be in the Horn of Africa,” where Somalia once got 90% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, but is now struggling to find supplies amid sky-high prices.

“We’re really trying to prevent mass deaths right now,” Sarah Charles, assistant administrator for USAID’s Office of Humanitarian Assistance, told the AP, adding, “Unfortunately, the nature of these crises is such that they are slow moving.” and then go real fast.”

Nimo Hassan, director of the Somalia NGO Consortium, and several others said they believe donor country representatives on the ground understand the urgency, but decision-makers in capitals like Brussels and London seem distracted by the war in Europe.

“They’re not openly saying, ‘We’re focused on Ukraine,’ but you can see what they’re doing in Ukraine,” Hassan said. “It should be based on need, not a political decision, you know?”

Fewer than 30% of new arrivals at camps for those fleeing drought in Somalia were receiving food or other immediate assistance as of April, the UN humanitarian agency said.

“Not all emergencies are created equal,” said Victor Aguayo, director of nutrition and child development at UNICEF, speaking from the Somali region of Ethiopia, where he reported a “very significant increase” in the number of wasted children under the age of 2. severe.

“Some emergencies suddenly get attention,” said Aguayo, adding that UNICEF is not receiving enough money to contain the crisis in the Horn of Africa, as 1.8 million children need urgent treatment.

The World Food Program, like UNICEF, must shift limited resources away from acute hunger prevention to focus on the desperately hungry. That means more than a quarter of a million children under the age of 2 in Somalia have missed out on prevention aid “at the peak of famine prevention efforts,” said Altan Butt, a WFP spokesman.

Across Somalia, where a weak humanitarian response to the 2010-2012 drought was partly to blame for the deaths of a quarter of a million people, aid workers are watching with fear that a fifth consecutive rainy season could fail for First time in history.

The southern district of Dollow, near Ethiopia, is “overwhelmed” by new arrivals, with at least 40 people killed between April and June, district commissioner Mohamed Hussein Abdi said. Displaced people now outnumber residents.

At maternal and child health centers in the Puntland region of northern Somalia, almost all other patients were severely malnourished, said Justus Liku, food security adviser for aid group CARE.

“We can see places where there is not even a drop of water,” said Ahmed Nasir, deputy director of Save Somali Women and Children, speaking to the AP from the field. “If those people in the decision-making offices could see what we see now, they would just release the funds right away.”


This story was corrected to show that more than a quarter of a million children under the age of 2 in Somalia have missed out on prevention aid, according to the WFP.


Anna reported from Nairobi, Kenya and Kyiv, Ukraine.

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