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APO International

Somalia: Olympian Sir Mo Farah ‘Heartbroken’ To See Escalating Impact of Climate Change on Children in His Homeland

todayJuly 9, 2024 9

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‘Will my child eat today? Will they even have any water?’ A mother’s plea to Farah; Olympic champion’s ‘awe’ at battles for survival after 43,000 deaths; Multimedia content can be downloaded here.

On a journey back to his birthplaceSave the Children ambassador Sir Mo Farah said it was heartbreaking to witness the devastating impact climate change is having on driving up child malnutrition rates in Somaliland. Farah also saw first-hand the vital care that is giving hope to families fighting for their children’s lives.  

The four-time Olympic gold medallist visited Gabiley in Somaliland where he spent his early years, meeting mothers and their children who were receiving treatment at a health centre run by Save the Children. 

There, mothers told him heart-wrenching stories of how recurring droughts and floods caused by climate change had made it difficult to feed their families. This has resulted in dangerously deteriorating health with nearly seven million people – or about 40% of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance.  

At a hospital in Gabiley, Farah, 41, met mothers with severely malnourished children who had travelled long distances to seek treatment. The mothers told Farah that these journeys were tough, with many forced to leave some of their children behind in order to secure care for others.  

Farah said: 

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see children in these conditions through no fault of their own. I can’t imagine having to leave any of my children behind to find treatment for another one – it’s an impossible choice. I’m in awe of the strength and determination of these mothers who will do anything for their children in such difficult circumstances.” 

Somalia is at the forefront of the climate crisis. Ranked as the second most vulnerable country to climate change, it has experienced back-to-back crises of increased droughts then flooding over the past few years.  

Prolonged droughts have destroyed crops and livestock, causing extreme food insecurity which, combined with conflict, has forced about 3.8 million people from their homes.   

Five consecutive failed rainy seasons have left four million people in Somalia facing acute food insecurity and almost two million children at risk of acute malnutrition. In 2022, 43,000 excess deaths are estimated to have occurred in Somalia because of the drought – half of which are likely to have been children under five.  

More recently, heavy rains and flash floods have affected 226,000 people in Somalia, two thirds of them children, while thousands of families have lost their livelihoods. 

In a village similar to the one Farah grew up in, he met Sabaad, a Save the Children community health worker who has become a lifeline for families and is creating lasting change for children who need it the most. Sabaad provides care for children in her village, making life-saving treatment easily accessible. Farah gained an insight into the critical nature of that treatment when he saw how she cared for a malnourished six-month-old boy, Hassan*. 

Farah, a father of four, said: 

“The work Sabaad is doing is so important. The community here love her, and I can see why. I spoke to some of the mothers Sabaad helped and they told me that without her, they don’t know if any of their children would be here today. 

“Some families shared with me the daily struggle they face to feed their children. It’s awful to hear that families haven’t eaten for days. Most of them told me they don’t know where their next meal will come from. They just want to put their children first, they’re not even thinking about themselves – they’re thinking, is my child going to eat today? Will they have clean water? Will they even have any water? One of the main reasons this is taking place is because of climate change, which seems to have only become worse over the last few years.” 

Sir Mo Farah has been a Save the Children Ambassador since January 2017. He generously donated £100,000 from the Mo Farah Foundation and helped launch Save the Children’s East Africa Food Crisis Appeal two months later, which raised more than £4.3 million. A dedicated family man of Somali heritage, he has spoken publicly about the drought and how malnutrition has affected children and families across Somalia and the region. Somaliland is a self-declared autonomous region of northwestern Somalia. 

Save the Children calls on the UK government and other high-income countries to take this opportunity to increase their climate funding for lower-income countries like Somalia which are bearing the burden of a crisis they did not create. The charity also urges donors to ensure that services preventing and treating malnutrition are well-funded. 

A UN appeal for US$1.6 billion for Somalia in 2024 is just 20% funded. 

Save the Children has worked in Somalia for more than 70 years and is a national and international leader in humanitarian and development programming in health, nutrition, water hygiene and sanitation, education, child protection and child rights governance. In 2023, Save the Children reached 4.7 million people in Somalia, including more than 2.47 million children. 

To help create a lasting change for children impacted by the climate crisis like those in East Africa, you can donate to Save the Children’s Emergency Fund here.  

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Save the Children.

    

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