Somaliland: Mo Farah 'devastated' by impact of climate change Somaliland: Mo Farah 'devastated' by impact of climate change

Somaliland: Mo Farah 'devastated' by impact of climate change

Somaliland: Mo Farah 'devastated' by impact of climate change

On a trip to his hometown in Somaliland, Save the Children ambassador Sir Mo Farah said he was heartbroken by the level of child malnutrition in Somaliland, the self-declared autonomous region in northwestern Somalia devastated by climate change.

The long-distance runner also saw first-hand the vital care that is giving hope to families fighting for their children's lives.

In his childhood town of Gabiley, the four-time Olympic gold medallist met mothers and their children receiving treatment at a health centre run by Save the Children.

Listening to families, the 41-year-old athlete is visibly affected by the stories experienced and told by parents at the mercy of humanitarian aid.

Somalia is on the front lines of the climate crisis. Successive waves of drought and flooding have destroyed livestock and crops.

There, mothers told him heartbreaking stories of recurring droughts and floods caused by climate change, which have made it difficult to feed their families. This has led to a dangerous deterioration in health, and nearly seven million people – about 40% of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance.

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

Farah said: "It's absolutely heartbreaking:

"It is absolutely heartbreaking to see children in these conditions through no fault of their own. I cannot imagine having to give up one of my children to find treatment for another - it is an impossible choice. I am in awe of the strength and determination of these mothers who are prepared to do anything for their children in such difficult circumstances.

Somalia is on the front lines of the climate crisis. Ranked second among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, it has experienced successive drought and flood crises in recent years.

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

Five consecutive rainy seasons have left four million people in Somalia acutely food insecure and nearly two million children at risk of acute malnutrition. In 2022, drought is estimated to have caused 43,000 deaths in Somalia, half of whom are likely children under five.

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

In a village similar to where Farah grew up, 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 most. Sabaad cares for children in her village and facilitates access to life-saving treatment. Farah became aware of the critical nature of this treatment when he saw how she cared for a malnourished six-month-old baby boy, Hassan*.

Farah, a father of four, said:

“Sabaad’s work is very important. The community loves her very much, and I understand why. I’ve spoken to some of the mothers Sabaad has helped and they’ve told me that without her, they don’t know if any of their children would be here today.

“Some families have told me about the daily struggle they have to feed their children. It’s terrible to hear that families haven’t eaten for days. Most of them have told me that they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. They just want to put their children first, they don’t even think about themselves – they wonder, will my child eat today? Will they have clean water? Will they even have water? One of the main reasons for this is climate change, which seems to have gotten worse in recent 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 over £4.3 million. A dedicated family man of Somali origin, he has spoken publicly about the drought and how malnutrition has affected children and families in Somalia and the region.

Save the Children is calling on the UK government and other high-income countries to seize this opportunity to increase their climate funding for low-income countries like Somalia, which are bearing the brunt of a crisis they did not create. The charity is also calling on donors to ensure that services to prevent and treat malnutrition are well funded.

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

Save the Children has been working in Somalia for over 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 over 2.47 million children.

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


  1. There's urging increased climate funding and support for humanitarian aid to save lives.

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