Ukraine's Shadow: Aid starvation in a country like Somalia

MOGADISHU (Somalia) -- In the last two months, more than twenty-six children have been killed by hunger in one Somalia hospital.

Ukraine's Shadow: Aid starvation in a country like Somalia

MOGADISHU (Somalia) -- In the last two months, more than twenty-six children have been killed by hunger in one Somalia hospital. Yahye Abdul Garun watched as their parents, who were in desperate circumstances, stumbled into the hospital from rural areas that have been suffering from the worst drought in decades. Yet, no humanitarian aid is delivered.

A donor, who had been preparing to donate a half-million dollars for a Somali aid organization, told Hussein Kulmiye that it would redirect the money to Ukraine's benefit instead.

Now, as Somalis fleeing drought flood more than 500 camps in Baidoa city, aid workers make "horrific” choices to help one camp while ignoring 10 others, Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said. He told The Associated Press that he was "angry" and "ashamed" that his group's appeal for Ukraine was funded within 48 hours. However, its Somalia appeal may only be a quarter of the way through, as thousands die.

Millions of dollars have been diverted from other crises to fund the war in Ukraine. Somalia is the most vulnerable country in the world, with a severe food shortage that has been largely caused by the conflict. While its aid funding is only half what it was last year, the vast majority of Western donors have sent over $1.7 billion to help with the war in Europe. Similar effects are felt in Yemen, Syria and Iraq as well as the Palestinian territories.

According to United Nations data, almost 80% of Ukraine's appeal has been funded. This is an "exceptional level" for any crisis at this point in the year, according to Angus Urquhart (humanitarian and crisis leader for Development Initiatives consultancy). Only 30% of the appeal for Somalia has been funded.

The Horn of Africa, which includes Ethiopia and Kenya, is the most affected by this year's shift in attention and money. Some areas could be declared in famine in as little as a few weeks. According to the United States Agency for International Development, regional authorities have not seen anything of this magnitude in well over 100 year. Millions of livestock, which was once the main source of nutrition and wealth for families, have been killed.

The next step is the people.

Some Somalis are shocked to discover that there is rarely any aid, despite walking for days in the deserted landscapes to reach Mogadishu.

Hawa Osman Bilal, a mother of Ifrah, sat outside her tent and held the clothes of her daughter. Ifrah, like many other vulnerable Somalis, died in the end after making the long journey to seek help.

Bilal stated, "She was thin and emaciated and she died in my presence." One of many small graves was used to bury the girl.

Fadumo Abdulkadir Warsame, the camp's caretaker said that around 100 families arrived in the last week, bringing the total population of the camp to 1,700. They have no food. He said, "The only thing that we can afford for them are bread and tea." "There is not yet any aid from the donors."

The stock in a nearby storeroom, run by Peace and Development Action and supported by U.N. World Food Program has shrunk. Manager Shafici Ali Ahmad stated that the world has moved on to Ukraine and turned its backs on Somalia.

In a statement issued June 28, the White House stated that the problem was being acknowledged. It said that while the world would continue to be affected "by Russia's actions", the Horn of Africa will have the greatest immediate need. Somalia used to source 90% of its wheat from Russia, but is now struggling to find food amid rising prices.

"We're trying to prevent mass deaths at the moment," Sarah Charles, assistant administrator for USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance told the AP. She added that "unfortunately, these crises are such that they go slowly and then go very quickly."

Nimo Hassan (director of the Somalia NGO Consortium) and others stated that they believe the representatives from donor countries on the ground understand the urgency. However, decision-makers in capitals such as London and Brussels seem distracted by the conflict in Europe.

Hassan stated that although they aren't saying explicitly, "We're focused in Ukraine", you can see their actions in Ukraine. It should be based upon need and not political decisions, you know?

According to the U.N humanitarian agency, less than 30% of Somalia's new arrivals in camps for refugees fleeing from drought were receiving food or assistance immediately as of April.

Victor Aguayo (UNICEF director for nutrition and child development), said that not all emergencies are created equal. He spoke from Somalia, Ethiopia where he saw a "very substantial increase" in children with severe wasting.

Aguayo stated that "some emergencies all of sudden grab attention", adding that UNICEF does not have enough money to address the Horn of Africa crisis, as 1.8 million children require urgent treatment.

Like UNICEF and the World Food Program, it must shift resources from preventing severe hunger to focusing attention on the most desperate. Altan Butt, a spokesperson for WFP, stated that this means more than 25 million children in Somalia under 2 have lost their prevention aid "at the peak famine prevention efforts."

As a result of the drought in 2010-12, a quarter-million Somalians died. Humanitarian workers in Somalia are watching this season with concern, as they fear that a fifth consecutive rainy season will fail, for the first time since memory.

District commissioner Mohamed Hussein Abdi stated that the southern district of Dollow, Ethiopia, is being "overwhelmed by new arrivals". At least 40 people have died between April and June. Residents are now outnumbered by those who have been displaced.

Justus Liku, a food security advisor with the aid group CARE, stated that nearly all patients in mother-child health centres in Somalia's northern Puntland were severely malnourished.

Ahmed Nasir (deputy director, Save Somali Women and Children), said that "we can see places where it's not a single drop of water," while speaking from the field to the AP. "If decision-makers could see what we see, they would release the funds immediately."

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According to WFP, this story has been corrected to reflect that over a quarter-million Somalia children aged 2 and under have lost their prevention aid.

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Anna reported from Nairobi in Kenya and Kyiv in Ukraine.

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