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WFP Geneva Palais Briefing Note: WFP Somalia scale-up shows clear impact; must be sustained to avert famine

This is a summary of what was said by WFP Somalia Representative and Country Director, El-Khidir Daloum - to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA – The new data (for Somalia), alongside the projection of famine in Baidoa and Burhakaba that we heard last week, is absolutely a call to action. It’s a final warning to the world not to turn away from Somalia.

But I want to be very clear. The new data is also very strong evidence that the major, ongoing scale-up of humanitarian support in Somalia is making a difference – and will continue to make a difference, as long as we receive the funding necessary to maintain and increase it.

As I told you last time I spoke to you in June, we cannot wait for a declaration of famine to act – it will be too late. Half of the quarter of a million people who died in the 2011 famine had lost their lives before the official declaration.

And we have not waited.

We can identify five main stages of Somalia’s current drought crisis – the last quarter of 2021, the first quarter of 2022, two famine warnings in April and June, and now this projection of famine in Baidoa and Burhakaba. Through all these stages, we have been working to scale up the number of people we serve, even when our funding was critically constrained.

Since May, when the United States especially started to step up with additional resources, we have been able to pivot to full famine prevention. And we have increased our response in Somalia to unprecedented levels. In August, WFP alone reached 4.4 million people with life-saving relief assistance – well over double the number we had been reaching in April – and half a million more with nutrition support.

We can see the results of this record scale-up in the new data.

Back in June, we warned that 7.1 million people were facing critical food insecurity; 2.1 million of them facing emergency levels of hunger, and 213,000 facing catastrophic hunger. Those forecasts were through to September.

Now we are in mid-September, and the estimates are that right now 4.3 million people are suffering critical food insecurity - 1.1 million of them emergency levels of hunger, and 121,000 catastrophic levels of hunger.

Those numbers are still absolutely unacceptable, and they tell us that we need to do more.

But they also show clearly that so far, the huge scale-up of humanitarian assistance has helped prevent the worst forecasts from playing out.

We are still looking at 6.7 million people facing critical food insecurity from October through to December, and projected famine in Baidoa and Burhakba in the same timeframe… if this scale-up of humanitarian support cannot be maintained.

So it is, clearly, critical that the international community steps up with the resources we need to sustain the scale-up.

It is also critical that we continue our ongoing efforts to push further into rural and hard-to-reach areas, getting support to the people who need it most.

And it is critical that collectively, as a humanitarian community, we scale up an integrated response – not just food assistance but also nutrition, health, water access and sanitation – to save lives in Somalia.

The news today, and last week, shows that the worst potential outcomes from this drought crisis are terrifyingly close – just around the corner.

But it also shows us that, if we get the resources we need to keep this momentum going, we can continue to stop the worst from happening.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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For more information please contact (email address:

Petroc Wilton, WFP/ Somalia
Tel. +254 110 909 484