Speed Reads

humanitarian crisis

Aid workers say children in Somalia are dying of starvation 'before our eyes'

Somalia is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, and a World Food Program official says famine is imminent for millions of people unless there is a "massive" and immediate increase in humanitarian relief and funding for the country.

"We need money and we need it now," Michael Dunford, the World Food Program's regional director for east Africa, told G7 leaders meeting this week in Germany. If there isn't a "massive scaling-up from right now," Dunford continued, it won't be possible to avoid a catastrophic famine in Somalia, where children are dying of starvation "before our eyes."

The last four rainy seasons have been dry in Somalia and surrounding countries, and because of the drought, the World Food Program said 89 million people in east Africa are considered "acutely food insecure." A recent report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative found that at least 213,000 people are expected to face famine by September.

Claire Sanford, deputy humanitarian director for Save the Children, told The Guardian that while visiting Somalia, she met several mothers who have buried multiple children this year due to malnutrition. "I can honestly say in my 23 years of responding to humanitarian crisis, this is by the far the worst I've seen, particularly in terms of the level of impact on children," she said. "The starvation that my colleagues and I witnessed in Somalia has escalated even faster than we feared."

A famine in 2011 killed more than 250,000 people in Somalia, most of them children, and Sanford said people are telling her that today's conditions are even worse. "We have genuinely failed as an international community that we have allowed the situation to get to the extent it is at the moment," Sanford said. After asking for money earlier in the year, by April, the United Nations had received just 3 percent of the funds it asked for to go to Somalia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, The Guardian reports.