The number of people displaced by the record-breaking drought in Somalia has topped one million, with the United Nations warning of widespread famine if emergency needs are not soon met.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said that during the month of July another 83,000 people were forced to flee their homes because of the drought, with the worst displacement coming in the Bay, Banadir and Gedo regions.
Ishaku Mshelia, deputy emergency coordinator for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, told VOA via telephone Wednesday that people are migrating in search of food and other assistance.
He said the FAO is trying to help.
“Our ability as [a] humanitarian community is to be able to reach the affected people in their communities and provide the services that they need so that they … don’t feel pushed to migrate,” Mshelia said. “Unfortunately, previous droughts, what we have seen is that a lot of mortalities have been reported where people that, unfortunately, died on their way to open areas in search of assistance.”
FAO Somalia said it needs $130 million to fully fund its famine prevention plan, designed to help about a million people in rural areas.
A statement issued by the FAO on Wednesday said that if the funding gap is not addressed, widespread famine may be inevitable.
Drought-related malnutrition has killed 500 children, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
Authorities in Somalia’s Gedo region also confirmed to VOA more than 50 deaths of children due to suspected drought-related illnesses. The deaths were reported in the towns of Bardere and Beledhawo, which border Kenya.
Ali Yusuf Abdullahi, the Gedo regional administration spokesman, said that the region is witnessing a “catastrophic” situation due to drought.
He said that people are fleeing in search of a better life and have gathered in major towns including Dolow, near the Ethiopian border.
As of today, Abdullahi said, Dolow has received more than 50,000 displaced people and there are people who are coming from the Ethiopian side who were affected by the drought there and settling in IDP camps in Dolow. He said the town administrators are doing their best to provide relief, but that is not enough.
Somalia’s federal government declared the three-year drought a national emergency last year. The drought, Somalia’s worst in more than 40 years, has affected more than 7 million people.
According to the Somali prime minister’s office, the drought has also killed more than two million livestock.