© Photo Courtesy of Save the Children
Her day starts at 5:30 a.m. Soon after, Zainab Bishar Bashir is working hard at a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Somalia, where she is a midwife. She delivers babies, shows new mothers how to breastfeed, and immunizes children. In an antenatal care room, she also examines pregnant women.
Many mothers-to-be are presenting with conditions such as preeclampsia and anemia, often caused by malnutrition. The Galbet camp in Kismayo has seen an influx of people searching for health care and humanitarian assistance. Zainab—whose health clinic is supported by Save the Children with funding from Global Affairs Canada—said, “The admission trend of malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers increased, requiring staff to work long hours.”
These children and mothers are affected by a drought-driven hunger crisis that is growing in Somalia and many other low-income countries and is on a trajectory to be the worst on record. Made worse by a perfect storm of climate change, devastating desert locust infestation, conflict, and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is putting the lives of millions of children in danger.
At Galbet camp, there are signs of hope. Save the Children’s support began last year and is making a significant difference. Zainab explained, “With this project supporting the IDPs, I have noticed significant improvement in health and nutrition service delivery. Children are treated for malnutrition and other diseases that they came with…and this was not possible before.”
While this support is saving lives, it is still not enough. Urgent and bold action is needed in many parts of the world. Women and children are disproportionately affected by the converging catastrophes. Save the Children has identified a staggering 21 priority countries for urgent and immediate support in order to save lives and prevent the long-term and irreversible consequences of malnutrition. The worst-hit are low-income nations in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region, together with Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. In Somalia alone, the crisis is already worse than the 2011 famine, when 260,000 people—half of them children under six—died of hunger and hunger-related illnesses.
As many as 323 million people in 81 countries could be facing acute hunger this year. The climate-conflict-COVID combination has resulted in crop failures, food shortages, and skyrocketing prices on basic staples. That’s on top of existing inequality. Throw in the effects of the war in Ukraine, and you’ve got the biggest challenge of our time.
That’s why we have to act now. And decisively.
“The scale of this crisis is unprecedented—never in modern history have so many lives been at risk from hunger,” said Danny Glenwright, Save the Children Canada’s President and CEO. “Not responding accordingly will be a failure of humanity.”
He praised the Canadian government for giving $73 million this spring to tackle the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, including support for Save the Children Canada’s work in Ethiopia. But he said other powerful countries need to step up too, particularly when G7 leaders meet later this month. Glenwright added, “Canada must use its leadership at the G7 and with other global leaders to push for a global plan to address this unprecedented hunger crisis before it spirals further out of control.”
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