The Somalia Famine of 2011-2012

The Somalia famine of 2011 was the first instance of actual famine in nearly a decade, and to date the worst famine of the 21st Century. In retrospect the disaster should never have reached the severity of a famine, but the famine developed as the result of a major drought, rapid food price inflation and conflict, combined with the lack of an adequate preventive response from either Somali authorities or the international humanitarian community. The response failure occurred because a “terrorist” or proscribed group (al-Shabaab) controlled much of the affected area, and counter-terrorism legal constraints outweighed humanitarian concerns. Both access and funding were extremely constrained up to the point that an outright famine was declared.

The paper reviews the main lessons learned from this crisis. It is one of four case studies developed for the “Planning from the Future” study, conducted in collaboration with Kings College London and the Humanitarian Policy Group.