Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have left 29.1 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in 2022, including at least 1.7 million severely wasted children who require emergency nutrition support. 

Somalia is by far the worst affected country, with around 1.4 million children facing acute malnutrition by the end of 2022. Around a quarter of them — 330,000 children — face severe acute malnutrition, far exceeding the 190,000 who required treatment during the country’s 2011 famine.

Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of droughts: Over 90 percent of Somalia is in severe drought, with some places experiencing their driest season in 40 years. This year, more than 81,000 people are at risk of famine by the end of June if the current rainy season fails.

Severe drought fueling child malnutrition crisis across Horn of Africa

On a recent visit to a UNICEF-supported integrated health center in Dollow, Somalia, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Raina Dagash met with mothers who had walked for 75 miles to seek emergency treatment for their severely malnourished children. The center provides children with lifesaving Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food and therapeutic milk. 

“Children have diarrhea, they are vomiting, very weak, very dizzy,” said Dagash. “The drought is the reason why they have moved 120 kilometers away. Many more are left behind.” 

See how UNICEF is helping malnourished children like 9-month-old Farah in Somalia:

Nine-month-old Farah’s mother, father and sibling walked for three days to bring her to the outpatient treatment center in Dollow. “Her mother thinks [Farah] will be a doctor when she grows up,” said Dagash. 

“Displacement and the long walking exhausts the children,” Dagash added. “It compounds with food insecurity, lack of water, disease. And the combination is what’s fatal for many of these vulnerable children. This is what potentially increases mortality.”

UNICEF is working to get nutrition services closer to children in need so they can receive the support they need to survive and thrive. Your contribution can make a difference. Please donate.

Top photo: On May 24, 2022, 10-month-old Ubah is fed Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food by her mother at Dollow Health Center in Somalia. UNICEF is one of the largest service providers in Somalia, treating children affected by the ongoing child malnutrition crisis across the Horn of Africa. © UNICEF/UN0644320/Fazel