Christmas commitment to ease hunger needed

The Australian Government is being urged to channel the spirit of Christmas and pledge additional support to ease global hunger as a new analysis reveals the deteriorating crisis enveloping the Horn of Africa.

The region is on the brink of famine, with Somalia especially hard hit. New World Food Programme statistics reveal that since the beginning of December, at least an additional 100,000 people in Somalia are grappling with insufficient food consumption. It means 90 per cent of the population is going hungry and not eating enough nutritious food.

The situation is dire among children under five, with 11.8 per cent suffering acute malnutrition and 27.8 per cent experiencing chronic malnutrition.

A separate new analysis from the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit estimates 8.3 million people across Somalia will face crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity outcomes between April and June 2023. 

Help Fight Famine has been pushing the Australian Government to make a $150 million commitment to provide immediate relief to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa and to commit $200 million annually over three years to address the root causes of hunger. The Australian Government is also being urged to commit to a longer term global food strategy, leveraging Australia’s scientific expertise and diplomacy.

Brisbane-based Somali community leader, Faysel Ahmed Selat is adding his voice to the campaign.

“Somalis here in Australia are going without, sending hundreds of dollars a month to family members in Somalia. Australians are kind and generous people and we deeply appreciate every bit of support they provide, through private contributions and through their government.”

Help Fight Famine spokesperson Kirsty Robertson said: “The earlier we intervene with support, the greater the chance of averting an absolute catastrophe in Somalia and the broader Horn of Africa.

“Many children are already dying either from hunger or diseases due to a weakened immune system. One out of ten children are severely hungry, to the point of listlessness, and have a high probability of dying before Easter. These unacceptable rates of hunger are preventable. Lives can be saved with urgent financial assistance.

“We commend the federal government for its $15 million provided so far on emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa and Yemen, but we implore them to continue that goodwill by urgently spending a further $135 million on relief. $150 million equates to little more than five dollars per Australian.

“This Christmas many of us will be enjoying seafood, ham, pavlova and mangoes. Amid plenty, there is no question the overwhelming bulk of Australians would happily make a modest contribution to prevent children dying from starvation. This time of year is about hope and giving.”

Key facts and figures
(as of Dec 20, link updated daily)

– The Horn of Africa is on the brink of famine after five below-average rainy seasons, with a likely sixth on the way, and exceptionally high food prices, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

– 14.9 million of Somalia’s 16.4 million people are suffering from insufficient food consumption.

– 2.9 million people are dealing with crisis or above crisis level food-based coping strategies (up 300,000 in the past three months).

– 12 of Somalia’s regions account for 58 per cent of the total number of people with insufficient food consumption in the country, amounting to approximately 8.7 million people, increasing by 157,000 compared to 90 days ago.

– In all 12, the prevalence of insufficient food consumption is between 92 and 99 per cent.