Over 43,000 Excess Deaths in Somalia From Drought
As the impact of drought worsens, there is a growing risk of famine in Somalia. Some 4.5 million Somalis are directly affected by the drought, and about 700,000 people have been displaced.

The worsening drought in Somalia is likely to have caused 43,000 excess deaths in 2022, of which around 21,500 are children under the age of five, according to a new report released on Monday.

“We are racing against time to prevent deaths and save lives that are avoidable. We have seen, deaths and diseases thrive when hunger and food crises prolong. We will see more people dying from disease than from hunger and malnutrition combined if we do not act now,” Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Eastern Mediterranean region (EMRO) said. 

“The cost of our inaction will mean that children, women and other vulnerable people will pay with their lives while we hopelessly, helplessly, witness the tragedy unfold”.

The Horn of Africa, particularly southeast Ethiopia, northern Kenya and Somalia, has been experiencing one its worst hunger crisis in 70 years. Along with the

failure of six consecutive monsoon seasons, Somalia is also struggling with the effects of climate change-induced weather events, political instability, ethnic tensions, food insecurity and rising prices. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated an already grim situation.  

The study was commissioned by UNICEF and the WHO and was carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Imperial College, London. The study involved a statistical mode, which retrospectively estimated that the crude death rate across Somalia increased from 0.33 to 0.38 deaths per 10,000 person-days between January 2022 and December 2022. 

The death rate in children younger than five years was almost double these levels. The researchers used data from 238 mortality surveys carried out by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia to arrive at these estimates. 

“Our findings suggest that tens of thousands of Somalis lost their life in 2022 due to drought conditions, with this toll set to increase in 2023. This is in spite of Somalis’ own resilience, support by Somali civil society within and outside the country and a large-scale international response,” said Dr Francesco Checchi, co-author and professor of epidemiology and international health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Far from being scaled back, humanitarian support to Somalia must if anything be increased as the year progresses, and sustained until Somalia exits this latest crisis.”

For the year 2023, the crude death rate is forecasted to increase to 0.42 deaths per 10,000 person-days by June 2023. 

The highest death rates were estimated in south-central Somalia, around the areas of Bay, Bakool and Banadir regions, the center of the current drought. 

“We continue to be concerned about the level and scale of the public health impact of this deepening and protracted food crisis in Somalia,” said Somalia’s Health Minister, Dr Ali Hadji Adam Abubakar.

“At the same time, we are optimistic that if we can sustain our ongoing and scaled-up health and nutrition actions and humanitarian response to save lives and protect the health of our vulnerable, we can push back the risk of famine forever, else those vulnerable and marginalized will pay the price of this crisis with their lives.”

Image Credits: UN-Water/Twitter .

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