Somalia and Somaliland are facing one of their worst droughts in decades. Severe water shortages and dry pastures have decimated livestock, affecting the livelihoods of Somali pastoralist communities. As crops fail and food prices rise, the ability of people to stave off hunger has weakened.
The drought and continuing insecurity have forced hundreds of thousands of people to move from rural areas and settle in urban centres. Many people have also sought refuge in camps for internally displaced people, where there is a lack of toilets, hand washing stations and clean drinking water.
While the drought worsens, Somalis are also battling a huge measles outbreak. MSF teams have seen close to 6,000 suspected measles cases between the beginning of the year and mid-May in multiple hospitals across Somalia and Somaliland.
Vaccination rates among children in Somalia are among the lowest in the world, and this has been exacerbated in the last few years as COVID-19 and insecurity have hampered efforts to provide routine vaccination to children under the age of five.
“In February, the hospital we support in Baidoa already treated more than 2500 children with measles since the start of the outbreak,” says Bakri Abubakr, MSF’s Programme Manager in Somalia. “Our 20 outpatient therapeutic feeding centres around Baidoa admit between 700 to 1,000 children per week,” says Bakri.
Baidoa also recorded its first cholera cases in April 2022. Children are three times more likely to die from cholera. Poor conditions in the overcrowded informal settlements across the city are creating the opportunity for a fast spread of the disease.
Lack of healthcare services and difficulty accessing many places because of insecurity have challenged our ability to evaluate the overall nutritional status of people in the region but our teams are already seeing extremely distressing signs of acute malnutrition among children.
In February, our teams in Baidoa screened 81,706 children under the age of five. They found severe acute malnutrition rates of 3 per cent, and global acute malnutrition rates of 17 per cent.
“In one week alone, we admitted almost 1,000 children to our outpatient therapeutic feeding programme in 20 different centres around Baidoa city,” says Bakri. “Thirty per cent of the children were severely acute malnourished, indicating that we are far into an acute emergency.”
“For 20 days we walked while carrying our children,” says a 75-year-old man who recently arrived at a camp in the Lower Jubba Region with his extended family. “We did not have a donkey to carry our children, so it took us 20 days to reach here. Our donkeys died because of the drought, and we had no money for a car. We came to Lower Juba because we heard that families who lost their livestock could get assistance.”
“Somalis are facing a series of crisis, one after another.” says Djoen Besselink, MSF’s country representative in Somalia. “People find themselves caught in a downward spiral, which without a swift and sustained response will continue to exact a heavy toll on Somalis,” says Besselink.
Notes to Editors:
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has projects in Baidoa, Mudug, Jubaland, Hargeisa and Las Anod.