Since 1990, world hunger has been classified as mild – with the notable exception of Somalia in 1991-92 and 2010-12. Now the UN World Food Program says nearly seven million Somalis will not be able to find enough food in the final months of 2022.

Baidoa and Burhakaba districts in the Somali Gulf region face the highest levels of hunger unless adequate food aid arrives. The crisis in southern Somalia threatens to repeat what happened in 1991-92 and 2010-12. when famine claimed hundreds of thousands of deaths. There are lessons we can learn from what has happened before.

1. International aid is vital

Information on poverty levels is limited. Demographic loss report famine of 1991-92 said: “The total population of Somalia is perhaps the least accurately known of any in the world.” According to the World Bank, as of 2013, Somalia’s economy was the third or fourth largest in the world. International humanitarian assistance will be essential to alleviate future crises. But for aid to be effective, there must be peace. One sure sign is that the security situation is better now than it was ten years ago and that the international community is committed to helping the government restore law and order. This has helped increase the flow of international humanitarian and development aid in recent years. The UN has already raised $1.4 billion for Somalia (about one-fifth of Somalia’s current GDP) in a recent appeal, but believes it needs another $1 billion to stop hunger.

2. War complicates the delivery of aid

Historical experience the demonstration that war can lead to famine also applies to modern day Somalia. Since 1990, civil war has repeatedly crippled Somalia’s economy, disrupted health care and education, and hampered the distribution of humanitarian aid from abroad, including during the 1991-92 and 2010-12 famines. The war made it difficult to get aid to where it was most needed. And for NGO workers and others, it was a very dangerous task. The non-governmental health organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) closed its operations in Somalia at the height of the 2010-12 famine, ending a 22-year presence in the country. This decision was made after some of his aid workers were killed and others kidnapped . MSF returned to Somalia in 2017 after deciding it could operate safely and effectively again. Today, an additional factor related to the war can be expected to play a role: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which threatens the production and export of food products of the two leading grain producers, potentially with global consequences from which Somalia may suffer first.

3. Long-term illnesses of survivors

Historically large-scale famines cost hundreds of thousands of deaths, with the worst costing several million, but what is often underestimated is the long-term illness of survivors. A widely cited 2013 inquiry the death toll in Somalia in 2010-12 was 260,000. Earlier estimates of 50,000-100,000 are perhaps more plausible because the higher figure is difficult to correlate with the valuable accounts collected after the famine. The key question to be answered is whether this famine was more deadly than its predecessor in 1991-92.

The number of people who survived the famine, but suffered permanent physical and psychological scars, far outnumbers the number of deaths: today, about one-third of Somalia’s population suffers from mental health status. The treatment of mental health damage in adults and children caused by traumatic experiences of hunger is an area that deserves more attention than in the past, as according to the World Health Organization mental health services are almost non-existent in Somalia. International aid can do much to remedy this situation.

4. Migration and relatives abroad can help

Migration in search of help is an ancient consequence of famine. Most migrants are generally expected to return home after the worst is over, and they do. During the 2012 Somali famine, more than a million Somalis crossed the Kenya-Ethiopia border. The refugee complex in Dadaab in eastern Kenya was for a time the largest in the world. But due to Somalia’s problems with drought and lack of security, many of the decade-old refugees are still didn’t come home to the dismay of the Kenyan authorities. In these circumstances, it is clear that migration can provide a similar safety valve in the event of another famine in Somalia remains debatable. The experience highlights both the benefits and limitations of mass migration. Open borders are necessary to provide a safety valve for those at risk of starvation, but neighboring countries often bear huge financial costs when they give shelter to those who escape from hunger. It is very important that the international community recognizes and supports their contribution.

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Somalis living in Europe and the US often try to help their families back home. At the height of the famine of 2010-12, even distant relatives abroad was a clear advantage. The money sent back to Somalia allowed some families to stay in their villages. Remittances succeeded when other means of aid failed. The mechanism used to transfer funds from families abroad should be secured and fortified.

Rainer Lesniewski/Shutterstock

Throughout history, the most common direct cause of famine has been famine severe weathercaused by rapid climate change. Years of drought and other climate extremes have compromised Somalia’s ability to grow food – and will likely continue to do so a recurring problem.

There was almost no mention of these threats in 2010-12 and 1991-92. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the coming Somali famine is that it may just be the first in a series of disasters to come. Global warming is expected to continue to cause meteorological instability for decades to come. Around the world, we must recognize that our capacity to deal with the threat of hunger is inadequate and, as recently highlighted Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, is steadily deteriorating.