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Drought Leading to Famine in Somalia, Kills More Children

FILE - A woman holds a child at a clinic in Dollow, Somalia, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.
FILE - A woman holds a child at a clinic in Dollow, Somalia, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

Somalia is witnessing one of the worst droughts in years. The country is on the edge of a famine as thousands have died, many of them children.

Somalia’s drought is not the only factor to blame: climate change, al-Shabab extremist group and the war in Ukraine have exacerbated the situation.

The declaration of a famine could be made soon this month, expected to be the worst one anywhere in the world since Somalia's famine a decade ago. The U.N. says thousands of people have died and half a million such children are at risk of death with “a number, a pending nightmare, we have not seen this century.”

Climate change and Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected much of the world causing food insecurity.

Russians invasion of Ukraine has stalled ships carrying enough grain to millions of people in Africa. A drop in humanitarian donations has also had a devastating impact.

Somalia is home to one of the world’s deadliest Islamist groups, al-Shabab, that has prevented most aid from coming in and people from leaving. An estimated 740,000 of the drought’s most desperate people live in areas under the control of the al-Shabab extremists.

Somalia’s president, who has survived three al-Shabab attempts on his life, has described the group as “mafia shrouded with Islam.” But his government has urged it to have mercy now.

Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage called the crisis a test from Allah, claiming that the armed group had offered food, water and free medical treatment to more than 47,000 drought-affected people since last year.

But many of the people who lived under the control of al-Shabab say they have seen no such aid. Instead, they said, the extremists continue their harsh taxation of families’ crops and livestock even as they withered and died and people who received assistance from the outside would be attacked.

Some flee their communities at night to escape the fighters’ attention, with men and even young boys often being forbidden to leave. One woman told AP that no one from her community was allowed to leave.