GOOBJOOG NEWS | MOGADISHU: A new report released by the Federal Ministry of Health, WHO, and UNICEF has revealed that an estimated 43,000 people died as a result of drought in Somalia in 2022.
This marked an increase in people who succumbed to the effects of drought as compared to the 2017/18 drought crisis. The report further showed that half of these deaths might have occurred among children under the age of 5.
The report was released by the Federal Government of Somalia’s Health Minister Dr. Ali Hadji Adam Abubakar who was flanked by Mr. Adam Abdelmoula, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Ms. Wafaa Saeed, UNICEF Country Representative of Somalia and Dr. Sk Md Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia.
The Minister said a scenario-based forecast model was also developed from the study to enable anticipatory action and avert drought-related deaths in the future. The forecast further estimates that 135 people may die each day due to the crisis with the total number of fatalities likely to fall between 18100 and 34000 during the same period.
The forecast spanning from January to June 2023, also estimates that 135 people might also die each day due to the crisis, with total deaths projected to fall between 18,100 and 34,200 during this period. These estimates suggest that, although famine has been averted for now, the crisis is far from over and is already more severe than the 2017-2018 drought crisis.
“These figures are derived from a statistical model which estimated that the death rate increased across Somalia from 0.33 to 0.38 deaths per 10000 persons over the period January–December 2022; the rate in children younger than 5 years was nearly double these levels. For 2023, the crude death rate is forecasted to reach 0.42 deaths per 10 000 person-days by June 2023,” the report reads.
The study, which was commissioned by UNICEF Regional Office and WHO country office of Somalia and carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Imperial College London, presents retrospective estimates of mortality across Somalia from January to December 2022.
The highest death rates, according to this study were estimated to have occurred in south-central Somalia, especially the areas around Bay, Bakool, and Banadir regions, the current epicenter of the drought.
The study, which is the first in a planned series, received support from the Federal Ministry of Health & Human Services of the Federal Government of Somalia and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, was funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office of the United Kingdom.
While releasing the findings of the report, Dr Ali Hadji Adam Abubakar said that the Federal Government of Somalia is concerned about the impact of the drought crisis on public health in the country.
“We are optimistic that if we can sustain our ongoing and scaled-up health and nutrition actions and humanitarian response to save lives and protect the health of our vulnerable, we can push back the risk of famine forever,” he added.
Dr Ali Hadji further called upon development partners and donors to continue supporting the Somali health sector in building a resilient health system that will eventually build a healthier and happier world for all Somalis.
On his part, the WHO Representative to Somalia and Head of Mission, Dr. Mamunur Rahman Malik said that the organization is working closely with the Federal Government of Somalia to avert further loss of lives.
“We have seen, deaths and diseases thrive when hunger and food crises prolong. We will see more people dying from the disease than from hunger and malnutrition combined if we do not act now. The cost of our inaction will mean that children, women, and other vulnerable people will pay with their lives while we hopelessly, helplessly witness the tragedy unfold,” Dr. Malik remarked.
He added that the WHO classifies drought as a health crisis and that the organization’s main concern has been to prevent excess deaths directly or indirectly attributed to drought with a special focus on women and under five children.
“As such, WHO has stepped up its life-saving integrated health interventions throughout 2022 and would continue to do so in 2023 to avert every preventable death in Somalia.”
UNICEF Representative Wafaa Saeed noted that the findings from the latest study present a grim picture of the devastation brought on children and their families by the drought.
“We are saddened by these deaths, and we know there could have been many more deaths had humanitarian assistance not been scaled up to reach affected communities. We must continue to save lives by preventing and treating malnutrition, providing safe and clean water, improving access to life-saving health services, immunizing children against deadly diseases such as measles, and providing critical protection services.”
Somalia is enduring five consecutive seasons of failed rains, the longest in recent memory, which has left five million people in acute food insecurity and nearly two million children at risk of malnutrition. The United Nations needs more than US$2.6 billion to meet the priority needs of 7.6 million people in 2023.