By Lisa Vives
The war in Ukraine is draining millions of dollars away from crises in Africa as funds are being redirected to Europe.
Somalia, facing a food shortage largely driven by the war, could be the most vulnerable. Its aid funding is less than half of last year’s level, while Western donors have sent more than $1.7 billion to respond to the war in Europe.
According to UN data, a $2.2 billion appeal for Ukraine is almost 80% funded—an “exceptional” level for any crisis at the midway point of the year. By comparison, a smaller appeal for Somalia is just 30% funded.
“They’re not saying openly, ‘We’re focused on Ukraine,’” said Nimo Hassan, director of the Somalia NGO Consortium. “But you can see what they’re doing in Ukraine.”
Hassan and several others said they believe donor countries understand the urgency, but decision-makers in capitals like Brussels and London appear distracted by the war in Europe.
In one case, a donor preparing to give a half-million dollars to a Somali aid group told its executive director and former Somali vice president Hussein Kulmiye it was redirecting the money to help Ukrainians instead.
Meanwhile, over 80 million people in the eastern African region are food insecure. Acute malnutrition is high, especially among children.
“We’re really trying to stave off mass deaths at this point,” Sarah Charles, assistant to the administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, told the AP, adding that “unfortunately, the nature of these crises is such that they go slow and then go very fast.”
At a single hospital in Somalia, more than two dozen children have died of hunger in the past two months. Dr. Yahye Abdi Garun has watched their emaciated parents as they stumble in from rural areas that are gripped by the driest drought in decades. And yet no humanitarian aid arrives.
Fleeing the drought, Somalis fill more than 500 camps in the city of Baidoa. There, aid workers are forced to make “horrific” choices to help one camp and ignore ten others, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland said, telling The Associated Press he is “angry and ashamed.” His group’s Ukraine appeal was fully funded within 48 hours, but its Somalia appeal is perhaps a quarter funded as thousands of people die.