Having teetered on the brink of famine throughout much of 2017, rain over the final three months of the year was expected to bring much-needed relief to millions of people in Somalia.
Unfortunately, the October-December rains failed to arrive. What was supposed to be three months of rainfall amounted to little more than three weeks of on-and-off showers?
That was the fourth consecutive rainy season to have failed, leaving millions of people facing into 2018 with no end in sight for their suffering.
The next rainy season traditionally falls between April and June but the forecasts are not good.
Trócaire is preparing for a long and difficult year in Somalia, where over six million people are already in need of humanitarian aid.
Severe malnutrition on the rise
2017 was a horrific year for Somalia. At the start of the year, 83,000 people were classified as being in need of emergency food. By the end of 2017, that figure had risen to 866,000.
On top of that, conflict and instability continued to wreak havoc on parts of the country. A massive car bomb in Mogadishu in October killed over 400 people, sparking huge protests.
Over one million people have been displaced due to drought and conflict since January 2017. The estimated number of displaced in Somalia is now above two million.
Trócaire has been working in Somalia since 1992, running hospitals and schools that are a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people.
Our team recently conducted a survey of households in the areas where we work and found that up to 90 percent of people were experiencing either moderate or severe hunger.
In some regions, one in three people is facing severe malnourishment.
In November, 3,349 children under the age of five were screened at one of our health centers, of which 11 percent were severely malnourished and 37 percent were moderately malnourished.
Greatly aided by a national Church collection in Ireland last July which raised €5m, our response has focused on getting food and water to communities worst affected by the drought.
We have also been massively supported by Irish Aid, who in November supplied Trócaire with 75 tonnes of humanitarian aid – including tents, water tanks, mosquito nets, and lanterns – to be distributed to families in the Gedo region of Somalia.
These are extremely worrying times in Somalia. The failure of rains and the ongoing conflict have left millions facing into 2018 fearful for what the future holds.
Thanks to the support of the Irish public, we will continue to work tirelessly in Somalia to do what we can to keep children alive, families together and communities safe.
The next twelve months will be a long road. Thanks to your support for Trócaire, people in Somalia will not have to walk it alone.