Aid Agencies Expressing Interest in Somalia’s Drought Crisis after Pope Francis’ Appeal

Hamida Hassan Kutun, a recent beneficiary of Caritas Somalia humanitarian assistance who lost her husband three months ago due to drought. The 47-year-old mother of seven (4 girls and 3 boys) now lives at Kulmis IDP camp located in the village of Madino in Bulo barte Hiran Region of Somalia. Credit: Volunteers for Agricultural Development (VAD)

Various organizations that received Pope Francis’ August 14 appeal concerning Somalia’s “serious humanitarian crisis” owing to drought and famine are expressing their interest to help.

In a Friday, August 19 interview with ACI Africa, the Director of Caritas Somalia, Sara Ben Rached, said that the Catholic entity has already started engaging with organizations that have come forward to offer support to the people who are facing starvation.

“Caritas Somalia is presenting several projects to the various organizations that came forward after the Pope’s appeal,” the Director of the Catholic humanitarian agency that responds to catastrophes in the Horn of Africa country since its establishment in 1980 said. 

In his address after leading the Angelus prayer on August 14 at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis drew the attention of the international community to what he described as a “serious humanitarian crisis” that he said the people of God in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa are facing.

The Holy Father said the people in the affected African countries are in danger of death due to famine caused by drought. 


“I wish to draw your attention to the serious humanitarian crisis affecting Somalia and parts of neighboring countries. The people of this region, already living in very precarious conditions, are now in mortal danger because of drought,” Pope Francis said. 

He advocated for support from across the globe, saying, “I hope that international solidarity can respond effectively to this emergency.”

In the August 19 interview with ACI Africa, Ms. Rached noted that the Holy Father’s appeal, which she said had especially stressed the “increasingly precarious conditions in which the population finds itself” had reached many people.

“The Pope’s message drew the attention of the entire international community to the serious humanitarian crisis in Somalia, emphasizing above all the increasingly precarious conditions in which the population finds itself,” the Director of Caritas Somalia told ACI Africa. 

In her attempt to describe the extent of the country’s humanitarian situation, she said, “Animals are dying, water reserves are empty, fields are drying up and people, particularly women, children and the elderly, are deciding to abandon their land for bigger towns to try to survive.”

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The Italian-born Caritas official said that the number of drought-related displaced persons since January 2021 has exceeded one million.

The displaced people, Ms. Rached said, have sought refuge in existing camps for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) such as Kahda, Daynile in the outskirts of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Others, she said, had created new IDP camps elsewhere.

Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa, including Kenya and Ethiopia, are experiencing “a historic drought”, the worst in more than four decades, the United Nations (UN) has reported.

In the August 11 report, has quoted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) as saying that the situation of drought in Somalia has displaced up to one million people, with more than 755,000 of them remaining “within the country’s borders” and the others having “fled abroad”. 

The humanitarian crisis in Somalia follows “four failed rainy seasons that have decimated crops and livestock”, the report indicates.


Earlier this year, the leadership of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire in Somalia, called for “drastic action” to provide reprieve to the people of God in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa nation. 

In a February 11 report, the Country Director of Trócaire in Somalia, Paul Healy, said the effects of the drought were “truly devastating”.

“Severe water shortages have heightened the risk of disease outbreaks, with people and animals now competing for untreated water from hand-dug shallow wells and dwindling rivers.  Cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea/Cholera, and outbreaks of measles, are on the rise in multiple drought-affected locations,” Mr. Healy said.

In the August 19 interview with ACI Africa, the Caritas Somalia Director said that the Catholic humanitarian agency is facing a financial hurdle in its attempt to reach as many affected people as possible.

“Caritas Somalia, with its reduced forces, has always stood and continues to stand by the Somali population. As you can imagine there are many needs, but unfortunately funds are lacking,” Ms. Rached said about the Catholic entity that officially joined the global confederation of Catholic relief agencies, Caritas Internationalis (CI), in 1983.

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Ms. Rached who, in the interview with ACI Africa, recognized the support she receives in her service from the Local Ordinary of Djibouti who doubles as the Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu in Somalia, Bishop Giorgio Bertin, highlighted the initiatives of Caritas Somalia that are underway.

In addition to the distribution of food rations, Caritas Somalia intends to build latrines in some IDPs camps, distribute dignity kits to women, and distribute tents and mosquito nets to the new IDPs families, she said. 

The Caritas official said that the Catholic humanitarian agency is targeting remote and hard-to-access regions in the Horn of Africa nation in its revamped fight against the growing humanitarian situation in the country.

“Caritas Somalia, in agreement with the Somali government, the various UN agencies and the different partners, will intervene in the most affected areas and are not easily reachable by other organizations due to lack of security,” Ms. Rached told ACI Africa August 19.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.