Somalia on the Verge of “a major humanitarian catastrophe”: Leadership of Catholic Entity

Mother of five, Nurto Abshiro. pictured today in her shelter in Kabasa internally displaced persons camp in Dullow, Gedo Region, southern Somalia. She arrived in the camp three months ago from Elbon village, 115 kms away, as the family had no food due to the drought. Her husband stayed behind to take care of their few remaining livestock. The family are receiving help from Trócaire which is providing critical health and nutrition services to over a quarter of a million people in Gedo. Credit: Miriam Donohoe

Somalia is on the verge of “a major humanitarian catastrophe”, the leadership of the overseas development agency of Ireland, Trόcaire, has said, and called for immediate action to save lives.

In a Tuesday, September 5 report, Trόcaire Chief Executive Officer (CEO) regrets the fact that many people have already died from hunger in the Horn of Africa countries in recent months, adding, “The world needs to act now to avert a major humanitarian catastrophe.”

“It is now time for the international community to finally step up and prevent a devastating humanitarian catastrophe and the deaths of hundreds of thousands more people,” Caoimhe de Barra is quoted as saying in the September 5 report.

Ms. de Barra adds, “What was predicted for months is coming to pass and we are on the verge of a famine being declared. This crisis has not come without warning from the humanitarian community and is a result of repeated failures to learn from the past.”

She attributes the situation of hunger in Somalia to “an unacceptable political failure”, adding that the failure to prevent famine in the “21st century is not just neglect, but a policy choice.”


The CEO of Trόcaire makes reference to what she has witnessed for the last few days she has been in the Horn of Africa country, saying, “It could be argued that famine has already crossed the threshold of the door into Somalia”.

“I have met mothers whose children are suffering from severe malnutrition, and they don’t know where the next meal is coming from. I have seen seriously ill children in the Trócaire-run Dollow Health Referral Centre who are on the brink of death. The suffering here is immense,” she narrates in the September 5 report.

Ms. de Barra says that women and girls are bearing the brunt as they are forced to reduce their food consumption in times of food crisis in order to provide for others, including children.

Women and girls, she says, “carry additional responsibility for sick family members, and undertake arduous journeys at personal risk to find water” during famine. the food shortage crisis.

In many cases, she goes on to say, “women and girls are subjected to sexual and gender-based violence or exploitation. A common survival strategy for many is early marriage of girls thus forced to leave school.”

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There is the need for the Irish government to “increase investment in key priority areas including protection of civil society space and human rights; sustainable food systems; climate change adaptation and response to humanitarian crises,” the CEO of Trόcaire says, and suggests the partnership of Ireland’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) Program.

“It is time for the government to ensure that Ireland’s support for the protection of the world’s poorest who, through no fault of their own, are bearing the brunt of multiple shocks and crises and are being left behind, sets the standard,” Ms. de Barra is quoted as saying.

She adds, “It should be fast and at a scale that reflects the seriousness of this crisis. At the UN Security Council Ireland should ensure accountability by those who deliberately seek to undermine food production and distribution and use starvation as a weapon of war.”

“Currently, in Somalia more than seven million people, or 45% of the population, are not getting enough food, the highest level of food insecurity ever recorded in the East African country,” the report indicates.

Aid agencies, the report further indicates, “estimate that 1.5 million children are severely malnourished, and UN forecasting suggests that as many as 350,000 children could already have died this year. Across the wider Horn of Africa, one person is likely dying every 48 seconds from hunger.”


“The fourth successive season of drought has led to the forced displacement of over 800,000 Somalia people in this year alone,” according to the September 25 Trόcaire report, which also indicates that “over three million livestock are estimated to have died since mid-2021 due to starvation and disease and pastoral households lack access to milk and saleable animals.”

The leadership of the Irish Catholic entity highlights some of the humanitarian responses in the country’s Gedo region of South-Central Somalia.

The report indicates that Trόcaire “provides 220,000 people with access free healthcare via its network of 24 healthcare facilities and emergency health and nutrition services”

Currently the entity of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland “enables 4,000 children to access quality primary education in 15 schools, partnering with local education committees to provide teacher training, schoolbooks, and to promote enrolment and retention of girls.”

On August 14, Pope Francis drew the attention of the international community to “the serious humanitarian crisis” that the people of God in Somalia and the Horn of Africa nations are facing.

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“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 after leading the Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square.

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

Meanwhile, in an interview with ACI Africa, the Director of Caritas Somalia, Sara Ben Rached, said that various organizations that had received Pope Francis’ August 14 appeal were expressing their interest to help.

“Caritas Somalia is presenting several projects to the various organizations that came forward after the Pope’s appeal,” Ms. Rached said during the August 19 interview. 

The Director of the Catholic humanitarian agency that responds to catastrophes in the Horn of Africa country since its establishment in 1980 noted that the Holy Father’s appeal 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 Italian-born Caritas official said.

In the August 19 interview with ACI Africa, Ms. Rached said that the Catholic humanitarian agency is facing a financial hurdle in its attempt to reach out to 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,” she said about the Catholic entity that officially joined the global confederation of Catholic relief agencies, Caritas Internationalis (CI), in 1983.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.