Aid brings hope to Somalia

5 March 2018

Tomorrow (6 March) the British government will host a humanitarian funding event in London. The purpose is to raise money to tackle the current food crisis in Somalia. The event comes a year after the UN named Somalia as one of four countries at credible risk of famine and, 12 months on, the situation remains extremely worrying. 

An estimated 5.4 million people continue to need humanitarian assistance, 3.2 million of whom are in a situation of crisis. As a result, the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia is seeking a further $1.5 billion to provide urgent support. 

But though the situation as donors gather in London is bleak, there are also some reasons for quiet optimism. While humanitarian aid could not bring the Somalia crisis to an end last year – considering the deeply rooted challenges that the country faces, that was never going to be possible – it did help to avert famine and has reduced the suffering of millions of people. At Tuesday’s conference, it is therefore crucial that we build on the progress that has been made.  

It will take time for Somalis to recover from the past 18 months of drought. Crop harvests have been very poor, livestock losses are substantial and many people have been forced to move from rural to urban areas in search of support – over two million people are now internally displaced. There is also no immediate prospect of the drought coming to an end, with Somalia facing a fifth consecutive season of below average rainfall. 

Positive signs 

But anyone thinking that the situation is hopeless should also consider what has been achieved in the country.

Local and international humanitarian agencies are currently reaching more than three million people per month. Up to a million children under the age of 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding women have been treated for malnutrition since January 2017. Somalia is a difficult place to work, with some of the worst-affected areas under the control of armed groups, but these figures demonstrate that the humanitarian operation is having a real impact. 

There are also positive signs [PDF] that resilience programmes are helping to meet needs while addressing some of the underlying problems that have contributed to the food crisis. And a new research report, commissioned by USAID to look at the impact of recent programming in Somalia and drawing in part from the learning of Concern’s DFID-funded resilience work has found that, as well as helping people on the ground, resilience makes good economic sense. The report finds that investing in early response and resilience yields average benefits of $2.8 for every $1 invested. Donors providing money for programmes aiming to build the long-term resilience of vulnerable people can feel reassured that this is money well spent. 

So for these reasons, donors coming to the table at Tuesday’s funding meeting must continue to provide assistance for people affected by the food crisis in Somalia. Because the levels of need urgently demand it, yes, but also because there is ample evidence that the money is making a difference where it is most required. 

About the author

Alexander Carnwath
Concern Worldwide

Alexander Carnwath is senior policy officer at Concern, advocating on resilience and humanitarian issues.