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Report: An estimated 43,000 dead from Somalia’s drought last year


NAIROBI, Kenya — An estimated 43,000 people died last year during Somalia’s longest drought on record, according to a new report, and half of them were likely children under the age of 5.

It is the first official death toll announced in the drought ravaging large parts of the Horn of Africa.

It is predicted that at least 18,000 people will die in the first six months of this year, and as many as 34,000.

“The current crisis is far from over,” says the report released Monday by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Office and carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya are facing a sixth consecutive failed rainy season as rising global food prices and the war in Ukraine complicate the hunger crisis.

The UN and partners said earlier this year they were no longer forecasting a formal famine declaration for Somalia for now, but called the situation “extremely critical” with more than 6 million people in that country alone starving.

Famine is the extreme lack of food and a significant death rate from outright starvation or malnutrition combined with diseases such as cholera. A formal famine declaration means data shows that more than a fifth of households are experiencing extreme food shortages, more than 30% of children are acutely malnourished and more than two in 10,000 people die every day.

“The risk of famine remains,” UN coordinator in Somalia Adam Abdelmoula told reporters on Monday.

Some humanitarian and climate officials this year have warned that trends are worse than during Somalia’s 2011 famine, which killed a quarter of a million people.

“The death rate increased as the year drew to a close,” Francesco Checchi, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told reporters. The worst affected populations are in Bay and Bakool in southwest Somalia and displaced people who have fled to the capital Mogadishu.

Millions of livestock have died in the current crisis, exacerbated by climate change and insecurity, as Somalia fights thousands of fighters with al-Qaeda’s East African affiliate, al-Shabab. The UN Migration Office says 3.8 million people are displaced, a record high.

A food security assessment published last month said nearly half a million children in Somalia are likely to be severely malnourished this year.

This time, the world is looking elsewhere, many humanitarian officials say.

“Many of the traditional donors have washed their hands and turned their attention to Ukraine,” the UN coordinator told visiting US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, at a briefing in Mogadishu in January.

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