In powerful open letter to world leaders, Somali children are calling for the international community to urgently find a solution to the climate crisis as Somalia edges closer to famine.
The letter, written by six children aged between 12 and 15, describes how they have been affected by the prolonged drought, the worst the region has faced in five decades. The children describe the impact that hunger is having on families in their community, with some children unable to leave their homes or suffering with deadly diseases as a result of malnutrition.
“It’s hard not to worry if your family doesn’t cook food or when you see your neighbours suffer,” they said.
“If you haven’t eaten, it’s hard to understand anything. If your family have no food to give you, you’re not able to play, run or concentrate.”
In an emotional plea, the child signatories are urging World Leaders to “stand with us during this time” so that “one day children will grow up in Somalia free of this problem.”
“We are asking that pollution be curbed and controlled. And the release of harmful smoke be monitored. Droughts should be controlled, and Somali children should not be forgotten,” they said.
Latest UN data shows that half of the 15 million population of Somalia are facing acute food shortages, with more than 300,000 people expected to be in famine-like conditions by the end of the year.
Australia was one of the biggest donors to the 2011 Somalia famine, which killed 260,000 people, about half of whom were children aged under five, and later acknowledged that the international community was too slow to respond.
Early international intervention during Somalia’s severe drought in 2017 averted a repeat of the 2011 catastrophe.
Save the Children Australia is urging the Albanese Government to provide new and immediate funding for urgent relief, allocating $150 million to hunger hotspots, while committing $200 million annually over three years to global hunger and implement a long-term strategy to address the root causes of food insecurity worldwide. Australia has to date committed $15 million to hunger relief in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.
Alex Saieh, Head of Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children, said:
“These children are bearing witness to the heart-breaking impact that climate induced hunger is having on the most vulnerable in their community.
“They understand better than anyone the dire situation facing families in Somalia. Malnutrition and death rates are soaring, children are too hungry to leave their homes, they cannot concentrate, play, or go to school. These children are determined to make their voices heard. They won’t let this crisis be forgotten.
“This letter is a desperate call to arms and we urge world leaders to listen. Without urgently needed funds and lasting action to tackle climate change, this year’s drought in Somalia could be even more devastating than the famine a decade ago.
“We hope the letter could also bring together experts to address the barriers stopping treatment from reaching children and tackling the root causes of this crisis.”
Save the Children is working to help affected communities in Somalia cope with the immediate humanitarian effects of drought. The aid agency is providing emergency water supplies, treating malnourished children, supporting education systems so that children do not miss vital learning while displaced by drought, running health facilities, and providing cash and livelihood support to the most vulnerable.