Updated: Famine in Somalia reaches historic level

The famine declared in south-central Somalia is feared to be worse than the historic famine of the 1980s. World Vision is seeking safe access to these areas, where ongoing conflict has made it very difficult for aid organizations to operate.

Edited by Shawna Templeton, World Vision U.S. Photo by Jon Warren, World Vision U.S.
Published October 6, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

The famine declared in south-central Somalia is feared to be worse than the historic famine of the 1980s that afflicted a wide region of the Horn of Africa, which includes Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Across the country, nearly half the Somali population — 3.7 million people — is living in crisis. An estimated 2.8 million of those are in the south-central regions of Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle.

Many Somalis are fleeing across the border to Kenya to receive services in overcrowded refugee camps, or to stay with family, further stressing already limited resources.

World Vision responds

World Vision is working in East Africa, including Kenya and Ethiopia, to respond to drought affecting the entire Horn of Africa region. Across the region, more than 10 million people are in dire need.

World Vision has worked in Somalia since 1992, but was forced to leave the south-central areas of the country in 2010 when the militants demanded that World Vision and several other organizations leave. While we are not able to work as fully as is needed to help those affected by the famine in Somalia, we have evaluated security risks and are able to cautiously work through partner organizations in the Dolo, Puntland, and Somaliland districts. Through these partnerships, World Vision is able to help some of the people in desperate need with things like:

  • Safe drinking water
  • Food distributions
  • Health clinics
  • Child Friendly spaces
  • Distributing basic necessities


For families fleeing conflict and drought in Somalia, World Vision is providing nutrition supplements to malnourished children, improving healthcare and sanitation, increasing the capacity of earth dams in anticipation of rains, and beginning livelihood activities to enhance communities’ economic conditions.

Advocating for increased relief funding and cooperation

In the United States, World Vision is advocating for increased funding for relief efforts in East Africa. World Vision’s senior vice president for international programs, Kent Hill, recently testified before Congress (pdf) to make the case for increased resources, saying that “saving the lives of dying children and families in the Horn of Africa is a moral issue we are also facing now that must be on the front burner.”

Hill noted that as many as 750,000 Somalis could die in the coming months unless they receive help, and that 58 percent of the children in Somalia’s Bay region are suffering from acute malnutrition.

“It is sobering to think how many more people, especially children, will die if we and the world do not respond energetically and quickly,” said Hill.

World Vision has also added its name to a joint statement (PDF) with 19 other international relief organizations, calling for for all-inclusive dialogue to save lives in Somalia.  The statement notes that "current restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance are preventing the rapid scale up of aid that is so desperately needed in Somalia," and calls for the engagement of the parties in conflict, as well as international governments and other actors.

‘We have not seen the worst yet’

Inconsistent rains over the past year have resulted in severe drought for both pastoralists and urban communities. In Puntland, a region in northern Somalia, many families are suffering from the seventh consecutive failed rainy season.

“This drought is likely to persist until 2012,” says Nicholas Wasunna, World Vision’s emergency advisor based in Kenya. "We have not seen the worst yet.”

What you can do

Pray for the children and families affected by this severe drought and the resulting famine. Pray that aid organizations like World Vision would gain access to those who need help the most.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply five times to help provide emergency food, healthcare, and other critical assistance to this suffering part of the world.

Speak out. Urge our legislators to prioritize the needs of those suffering from hunger.