Somali refugees fleeing the drought walk in the new arrivals area of the Hagadera refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, in Garissa County, Kenya, earlier this year.

Somalia on the verge of famine

  • May 10, 2023

More than 8.25 million Somalians are in pressing need of humanitarian aid due to the impacts of devastating droughts, conflict and hunger, devastation viewed first hand by Stefan Epp-Koop.

Epp-Koop, the humanitarian and Nexus program manager for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, was on the ground in Somalia at the end of April. What he saw was the results of the severe drought that has plagued the country located in the Horn of Africa since 2020.

“People’s lives have been completely destroyed, people whose livelihood depends on livestock,” said Epp-Koop. “People have been forced to flee their homes in places that have been completely ravaged by drought and are now living in makeshift camps. Some have been living in these camps for a long time. Some have been there since the drought of 2011 and some since the drought of 2017.”

Epp-Koop met with the local organizations the Canadian Foodgrains Bank partners with in the Luuq area of Somalia.

“We had the opportunity to see the nutrition programming, which included visiting a hospital for children suffering from severe malnutrition and medical complications,” he said. “This (programming) also included a number of out-patient programs, training for caregivers, displaced persons camps with mobile supports — lots of different ways to make life-saving assistance accessible for people in pretty dire need.”

Drought conditions have been persistently severe and the situation became so bad near the end of 2022 that global entities like the United Nations came close to declaring that Somalia was experiencing a famine.

Challenges to the food landscape in Somalia — and in many nations around the world — are expected to remain for the foreseeable future, but Epp-Koop sees traces of hope because of the steadfast fundraising support of Canadians. He said the financial support of the non-profit made it possible for the Foodgrains Bank to provide $52.5 million in assistance to nearly a million people in 34 countries. 

“The key message that our partner, Trócaire, wanted to share is that the support Canadians are providing to this programming is saving lives,” said Epp-Koop. “I can certainly see that as well. Nearly 1,500 children in the one hospital we visited were being treated for severe acute malnutrition with medical complications. Left untreated that could easily be a fatal situation.”

Trócaire is an overseas aid agency founded by the Irish Catholic Church in 1973. The organization has provided humanitarian support in Somalia since 1992.

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