Media CenterHunger Situation in Somalia Highlights Problematic Refugee Ban

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(443) 955- 7125


Executive order restricting refugees leaves Somalis with few options
as drought and conflict push Somalia toward famine

BALTIMORE, MD, February 2, 2017 – Somalia, one of the countries affected by the Administration’s refugee ban, is headed toward famine, with nowhere to go for Somalis trying to escape hunger. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is mobilizing resources to respond to the humanitarian emergency in Somalia that could lead to widespread malnutrition, even deaths.

“We’re seeing a lot more Somalis arriving in camps for the internally displaced,” said Lane Bunkers, the CRS country representative for Somalia and Kenya. “These are usually used as safe havens from conflict, but now they’re getting a huge influx of people from across the countryside who simply don’t have enough to eat.”

“It’s especially tragic as this comes at the same time as the U.S. government is suspending admissions of refugees from Somalia,” Bunkers said, referring to the executive order issued last week that includes Somalia on the list of predominantly Muslim countries included under the ban.

Five million Somalis, or 40 percent of its people, are having trouble finding enough food, according to the United Nations.

As a devastating drought extends into its second year, and with humanitarian access nearly impossible in large swaths of Somalia under the control of Islamic extremists, it’s feared hundreds of thousands of lives could be lost to hunger, again.

“Even now Somalis in the United States are being repatriated and tens of thousands are being sent back from Kenya,” Bunkers said. “We are talking about helpless people being sent into a warzone that is now also a major hunger epicenter. We should be welcoming refugees from Somalia, not shutting the door on them.”

CRS has urged the Administration to suspend implementation of the refugee ban until a more focused, targeted, and humane approach can be developed in consultation with relevant government agencies and other stakeholders. The government should undertake any review of security measures without disrupting ongoing refugee resettlement and immigration.

The crisis in Somalia has been brought on by weather and politics – two years of drought in a country with large swaths made inaccessible to humanitarian access by extremist group Al Shabaab. However, in recent years and with elections underway now, Somalia has also begun laying a framework as it moves toward creating democratic institutions, with Al Shabaab losing some ground.

“Humanitarian agencies need more resources to be able to help this new wave of displaced in Somalia, along with those being returned from other countries, and-- unbelievable but true – even Yemenis fleeing bombardments in their country who are now seeking refuge in war-torn Somalia and neighboring Djibouti,” Bunkers said.

The drought is also having effects across the wider region, including the Somali region of Ethiopia, northern Kenya and South Sudan, where lack of humanitarian access due to conflict is also driving the country toward famine.

“People who farmed haven’t had income, while prices are skyrocketing,” Bunkers said. “And many Somalis who don’t have land would have worked as day laborers on those farms, so do not have any income because there is nothing to harvest.”

In the more arid parts of Somalia, there are reports of entire herds of animals dying, again meaning people have lost any source of income they might have had. While predictions are still hard to make at this early stage, another dry season expected for the upcoming April to June planting season could be catastrophic and result in widespread deaths from hunger.

In 2016, CRS managed $8 million in humanitarian assistance programming in Somalia aimed at making people more resilient.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit or and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief@CRSnewsYouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

Nikki Gamer

Senior Public Affairs Manager

Nikki Gamer
February 2, 2017

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Senior Public Affairs Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement...More