As Somalia inches closer to a calamitous famine, the prospect of utter devastation and colossal loss of human life is once again becoming an imminent reality. The humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating by the day with up to 6.2million people in need of urgent aid. People across Somalia have been forced to walk hundreds of miles in search of food, water and shelter- with women and children disproportionately affected. Over 300,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished, with over 200,000 more children at risk of acute malnutrition. Somalia is now facing its third famine in 25 years, with the last one striking only six years ago.
In 2011, Somalia suffered a famine which claimed over a quarter of one million lives, half of them children. A report by the UN and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), found that the 2011 Somali famine could have been preventable had the international community responded sooner. Yet, here we are again. Despite repeated warnings issued by humanitarian agencies, the international community is failing to respond. The International Organization for Migration warns “if action is not taken immediately, early warning signals point towards a growing humanitarian crisis in Somalia of potentially catastrophic proportions.”
The sense of urgency is not lost on everyone. People are taking to social media to draw attention to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Somalia. On the evening of March 15, the hashtag #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia started trending on social media. A campaign launched by Jérôme Jarre’s calling on Turkish Airlines to assist in sending aid to Somalia. Within a couple of hours, it was shared by thousands with celebrities such as Ben Stiller and Colin Kaepernick supporting Jérôme’s call in videos posted online. Less than 24 hours later, Turkish Airlines responded to the call. A few hours later providing a 62-ton cargo plane to fly to Somalia.
Young Somalis are also taking to social media to draw attention to the deteriorating situation and raise funds to help the most vulnerable. Instagram accounts like Somali Faces are cataloging the stories of Somalis forced to leave their homes in search of food and water. Somalis in the country and abroad are aware of the slow response to the looming famine, with one woman forced to flee saying, “We haven’t received any support. We are in need of urgent support, or we might as well die here together.”
Young British Somalis are also doing their part in raising awareness and financial support for the victims, from climbing mountains to organising fundraisers and making videos online. As a someone with Somali relatives, I am constantly hearing of the unimaginable and torturous journeys men, woman and children are having to undertake just to seek aid. Somalis all over are looking for ways to send aid back home, turning to traditional tribal networks to seek out those most in need. With images of starving children with sunken cheeks and hollow eyes circulating the Somali diaspora community, the pressure to act now is critical.
We cannot stand by and wait for another 260,000 lives to be lost and only then realise, we could have done something. But by then, once again, it would be too little, too late. The time to act is now.