A veteran Irish aid worker has described hunger conditions in Somalia as being the most devastating she has seen and worse than during the country’s 2011-2012 famine that killed 260,000 people.
Two weeks after her return from the area around the East African country’s capital of Mogadishu, Carol Morgan, Concern Worldwide’s regional director for the Horn of Africa, spoke of children dying on roads as they travelled to the charity’s emergency feeding centres.
“It is the scale of it that is vast,” said Ms Morgan. “I saw so many malnourished children. They had a famine in Somalia in 2011-2012. What they are saying is that this time even more people are affected. The scale is greater than what happened then. However, I think maybe we are reacting faster but we need to continue with that.”
Some 6.2 million people, more than half the country’s population, are in need of urgent food assistance due to conflict and the most severe drought in decades, according to the Irish charity.
Acutely malnourished children
“Overall, if you are looking at East Africa, you are talking about 20 million people at risk of starvation. It is just unimaginable,” said Ms Morgan.
An estimated 363,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. Some 133,000 children are estimated to have died in Somalia’s last famine.
During her brief visit Ms Morgan travelled the conflict-ridden country with an armed escort, visiting several camps and nutritional centres where Concern is providing food, water, shelter and sanitation along with cash transfers via mobile phones.
She described distressing scenes where many hungry and thirsty children with swollen stomachs were not reaching the charity’s feeding centres and were “dying in their villages and on the road”.