Leadership of Catholic Entity Highlights Efforts in Addressing Somalia’s Drought Crisis

Bishara Hassanow and her children live in an IDP camp in Luuq, Somalia. Credit: Trócaire

The leadership of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire, has highlighted initiatives it is undertaking to address the crisis in Somalia’s Gedo region following the warning of “a major humanitarian catastrophe” earlier this month.

In a report published Thursday, September 15, Trócaire Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who recently visited the Horn of African nation says that it is “the worst affected country in this region,” and that “over seven million people, more than 40% of the population, are struggling to find food.”

“In Gedo we have an integrated programme of work on health, nutrition and protection, based around our 36 health facilities throughout the region,” Caoimhe de Barra says.

Ms. de Barra who visited Somalia in the company of Tommy Tiernan, an Irish comedian, actor, and writer adds, “We have been expanding our education work, focusing in particular on internally displaced children.”

She continues, “We are also expanding our resilience and women’s empowerment work in response to the cyclical nature of drought and the need for sustainable solutions.”


In the September 15 report, the native of the capital city of Ireland, Dublin, who was appointed the CEO of Trócaire in October 2018 after having served the Catholic entity for 21 years warns of famine in Somalia having “already crossed the threshold”.

She makes reference to the United Nations (UN) and says, “From what I witnessed last week famine has already crossed the threshold in Somalia and is devastating communities in many parts of the country.”

She adds in reference to the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, “Famine is only declared when a very high threshold of malnutrition and deaths from hunger has been reached and Mr. Griffiths predicted that famine will occur in parts of Somalia between October and December.”

“The drought has led to the forced displacement of 800,000 people. An estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five will experience acute malnutrition by October. That is the equivalent of every child and young person under the age of 25 in Ireland,” Trócaire CEO whose first role in the Irish Catholic entity was Campaigns Officer says.

She adds that the number of people displaced by drought last year alone has increased to approximately 260,000 and all of them find their way to “towns in Gedo including Dollow and Luuq out of a desperate need to find food for their families.”

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Due to this rising number of displaced people, Ms. de Barra says that “the supply of therapeutic food for severely malnourished children is rapidly running out” and that “the numbers of children who need to be admitted to hospital is increasing.”

“Early interventions that involve provision of food to children before they become acutely malnourished, and to their families, and approaches that build long term resilience, are needed on a massive scale,” she says.

In an effort to address the highlighted challenges, she says that “Trócaire is implementing an integrated programme that combines early identification of vulnerable people with strategies for building their eventual resilience.”

In the camps for displaced persons, she says in the September 15 report, “community health workers are constantly at work, meeting new arrivals, identifying their health and nutrition needs in order to easily attend to them.”

The constant availability of community health workers also enables them to provide “immediate treatment where possible and to also guide new arrivals to the health facilities or where needed to the protection services that are available to survivors of Gender Based Violence,” Ms. de Barra further says.


She adds that “Trócaire is providing monthly food rations to families who have a child being treated for malnutrition. However, there is simply not enough money to provide the food that is currently needed.”

“Trócaire is also working hard to build public awareness and to pressure the Irish government and other governments to increase overseas development assistance, both for this crisis and for long-term investment in building resilience,” the CEO of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland further says. 

She adds, “We will therefore continue to press the Irish government to honor its commitment to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on overseas development assistance by 2030. This is a mere 7c in every €100 of income earned.”

The agency of the Irish Catholic Church “is part of the Irish Emergency Alliance which has launched an urgent appeal to raise funds for the millions in need in the Horn of Africa,” the September 15 report indicates. 

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.”

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.