According to an annual Watchlist released on Wednesday by the aid organization International Rescue Committee, the countries of greatest concern in 2023 will be Somalia and Ethiopia, both of which are ravaged by drought and conflict in the Horn of Africa.

The report lists 20 countries, 11 of them in Africa, that it says are at greatest risk of new or worsening crises next year and are home to 80% of all people facing severe food insecurity – despite accounting for just 13% of the global population.

Top of the list for the first time in Somalia, where the combined effects of a two-year drought, an Islamist insurgency, and rising global food prices have caused catastrophic food shortages that are killing children now and are set to worsen.

The Al Shabaab militant group impedes humanitarian access, and an escalation of fighting between it and government forces in late 2022 suggests conflict may continue to intensify in 2023, the IRC said.

A woman drives donkeys to transport jerrycans of water in a drought affected area in Higlo Kebele, Adadle oreda, Somali region of Ethiopia, in this undated handout photograph. Michael Tewelde/World Food Programme/Handout via REUTERS

David Miliband, head of the IRC, said millions of Somalis were hungry and rich countries should not wait until an official declaration of famine to plug a $1 billion funding gap in the United Nations’ appeal for Somalia.

“The underfunding of the appeal is an obvious demonstration that the world thinks it’s not an urgent moment. That’s a mistake,” Miliband told Reuters in an interview ahead of the release of the Watchlist.

Speaking generally, Miliband said many rich countries were too focused on themselves and this was not right either morally or strategically.

“The insularity, the inward-lookingness of too many of the wealthiest parts of the world is leaving too many of the poorest parts of the world having to fend for themselves in a way that they’re unable to do,” he said.

Miliband said the war in Ukraine was exacerbating the problem because rich countries were focused on that, but he singled out the United States for praise, noting that it was providing 90% of aid for Somalia.

File: Reuters A Somali woman affected by the worsening drought due to failed rain seasons, stands outside her makeshift shelter at the Alla Futo camp for internally displaced people, in the outskirts of Mogadishu

“In the U.S., Ukraine is not being used as an excuse to step back from tackling global issues. It’s being used by the administration as a reason to get involved in East Africa.”

Somalia has been hard-hit by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because it is dangerously reliant on imported food, with 90% of its wheat supplies coming from Russia and Ukraine.

In Ethiopia, where an estimated 20 million people do not have enough to eat, a ceasefire signed in November between the federal government and forces from the Tigray region after two years of war has raised hopes of improved humanitarian access.

“There has been some aid flowing through,” said Miliband. “But we’ve got an enormous amount of ground to make up.”

The other countries ranked in the top 10 on the IRC’s 2023 Watchlist are Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, and Ukraine.

Source: Reuters

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