UK

Sir Mo Farah details ‘heartbreaking’ effect of climate change in Somalia

The Olympian paid a visit to the country of his birth with Save the Children.

Save the Children ambassador Sir Mo Farah (Save the Children)
Save the Children ambassador Sir Mo Farah (Save the Children) (Mustafa Saeed / Save The Children)

Sir Mo Farah has said it was “absolutely heartbreaking” to witness the devastating impact climate change is having on child malnutrition rates in his birthplace of Somaliland.

The Olympic gold medallist met mothers and their children who were receiving treatment at a health centre run by Save the Children on a visit to Gabiley in Somaliland, a self-declared autonomous region of north-western Somalia, with the charity.

During the visit Sir Mo heard how recurring droughts and floods caused by climate change had made it difficult for mothers to feed their families.

Sir Mo Farah on a visit to a health centre (Save The Children)
Sir Mo Farah on a visit to a health centre (Save The Children) (Mustafa Saeed / Save The Children)

At a hospital in Gabiley, he met mothers with severely malnourished children who had travelled long distances to seek treatment, with many forced to leave some of their children behind in order to secure care for others.

Father-of-four Sir Mo 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.”

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, Save the Children said.

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, the charity added.

Sir Mo Farah meets a malnourished child being helped by Save The Children (Save The Children)
Sir Mo Farah meets a malnourished child being helped by Save The Children (Save The Children) (Mustafa Saeed / Save The Children)

Somalia is ranked as the second most vulnerable country to climate change and recently heavy rains and flash floods have affected 226,000 people, two thirds of them children, with thousands of families losing their livelihoods.

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, according to Save the Children.

During his visit Sir Mo made a trip to a village similar to the one he grew up in, where he met Sabaad, a Save the Children community health worker who provides care for children in her village, making life-saving treatment easily accessible.

The Olympian said: “The work Sabaad is doing is so important. The community here love her, and I can see why.

Sir Mo visits a local school during his trip (Save The Children)
Sir Mo visits a local school during his trip (Save The Children) (Mustafa Saeed / Save The Children)

“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 has been a Save the Children ambassador since January 2017 and helped launch Save the Children’s East Africa Food Crisis Appeal, which raised more than £4.3 million.

The charity has called on the UK Government and other high-income countries to increase their climate funding for lower-income countries such as Somalia.