Hope for Somalia Amid a Record-breaking Drought
Somalia is suffering through what the United Nations called “the longest and most severe drought in its history.” The Horn of Africa usually has two wet seasons a year. One lasts from March to May, and another from October to December. The past five wet seasons—going back to 2020—have all failed. Climatologists are expecting the coming wet season this spring to also fail. Neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Kenya are also affected. This is dramatically impacting agriculture and food production.
The crisis hasn’t technically reached levels the UN classifies as a “famine” (“when at least 20 percent of the population face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent … and 2 out of 1,000 people die from starvation on a daily basis”). But in February, the UN estimated over 8 million people—nearly half of Somalia’s population—“require immediate lifesaving aid and protection.” Roughly 1.5 million people have been displaced and at least 3.5 million livestock have died.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is aggravating the crisis. Somalia imported 90 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. The war has significantly disrupted Somalia’s wheat importation. But the war has also distracted the international community from sending foreign aid. Ukraine is taking up more and more nongovernmental organizations’ (ngos) attention and funds. Ergo, countries like Somalia are receiving less aid. Add to that the worldwide inflation crisis spiraling out of control. This has, as the news medium Coda put it, “pushed already vulnerable countries such as Somalia to the brink of catastrophe.”
Circumstances get even more complicated when you factor in Somalia’s war on terror. Al-Shabaab, an Islamist terror group, has been rampaging in Somalia for about 15 years and controls large swathes of territory in the country. Al-Shabaab is notorious for not cooperating with ngos and other donors in sending aid to territories it controls. Those ngos that al-Shabaab does allow to operate within its territory have to accept “taxation” of exorbitant sums of money to fund jihad.
Al-Shabaab, of course, impacts more than the areas it directly controls. The Somali government is currently on the offensive against al-Shabaab and has made significant gains in recent days. But between 2016 and 2018—when al-Shabaab held more power—the terror group drove up corn prices by about 11 percent through terrorist attacks on transportation routes, hurting supply lines. And of course, the war on terror eats up money Somalia could otherwise spend to feed its people.
Children are among those most vulnerable in times of famine. Somalia’s crisis is no exception with 1.8 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnourishment in 2023. Earlier this year, Action Against Hunger did a survey in Somalia’s Elberde district. Its verdict: “29.5 percent of those surveyed were acutely malnourished, just a half percentage away from one of the famine criteria.” The organization cited an external report that suggested other regions face similar conditions. Save the Children stated on March 1 that “about half of children under 5 in Somalia [are] facing malnutrition.”
These sobering statistics are nothing new for much of sub-Saharan Africa. Many in the rest of the world may get desensitized to such stories. No matter how much money we throw at the problem, some may think, nothing changes. People will die, children will starve, bombs will go off. We have to accept the harsh reality and move on with our lives.
But Somalia’s famine has a deeper lesson that warrants closer scrutiny. Moving on too quickly from stories like these could cause people to miss the famine’s most important lesson.
When disasters like famines occur, media often use the cliché “an event of biblical proportions.” Yet few bother looking at what the Bible actually says about such crises. The Bible has much to say about famines in particular.
A pivotal passage is in Revelation 6, which describes the “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” These symbolize four cataclysms to hit the world before the return of Christ. The first horseman rides a white horse and carries a bow (verses 1-2). The second rides a red horse and carries a sword (verses 3-4). Now notice the third horse: “… I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice … saying, ‘Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’” (verses 5-6; New International Version). The fourth horseman rides a “pale” (Greek chloros, or green—where we get our word “chlorophyll” from) horse (verses 7-8).
“The book of Revelation has many symbols with many different interpretations,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. “However, we must remember that the Bible interprets itself. Most Bible scholars fail to realize this fact, and that is why we see so many bizarre interpretations of the book of Revelation.”
Revelation 5:5 shows that Christ is the one who reveals the meaning of the four horsemen. But He does so in other biblical passages. One of the most pertinent is in Matthew 24: “And as he [Jesus] sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (verses 3-7).
Like Revelation 6, Matthew 24 lists the chain of events starting the countdown to Christ’s return. Putting the two prophecies together, we see that Matthew 24 interprets Revelation 6. The white horse—a horseman masquerading as Christ (Revelation 19:11)—represents religious deception. The red horse represents war. The black horse represents famine. The green horse ridden by death represents disease epidemics.
Mass starvation events like Somalia’s certainly bring to mind the symbolism of the black horse. But putting the scriptures together with current events gives an even deeper meaning.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse continues: “These brief accounts depict the four horsemen following each other in rapid succession. False religion forced itself on mankind through the terrifying instrument of war. … In the same fashion, the third horseman, depicting famine, follows directly behind war. Though war is a primary factor, it is not the sole cause of famine.”
Somalia’s problems started with al-Shabaab’s jihadist insurgency. These problems with Islamist fundamentalism brought Somalia into the mire of civil war. Supply line disruption caused food prices to rise in the already impoverished nation. The war in Ukraine, meanwhile, is cutting Somalia off from its main supply of wheat. And this, combined with a record drought, is leading to an epidemic of malnourishment.
In other words, Somalia is experiencing a domino effect of religious deception, war, famine and disease—just as the Bible describes. Somalia’s problems are proving Bible prophecy to be accurate. And the same Bible that predicts war and famine also predicts the solution to those problems—to Somalia and the whole world.
Notice the following prophecy: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it” (Micah 4:1-4).
Somalia suffers from many problems today. But God promises to put an end to these problems. An end to war, to terrorism, to abusive government and nonexistent justice. And God promises that every man will have his vine and fig tree. Every man will have enough to eat. Photographs of emaciated children and cropland-turned-desert will no longer make the front-page news. They will be relics of history.
Any aid ngos and peacekeepers can give will be temporary. Somalia’s problems are not going away any time soon. But even as the Bible prophesies of catastrophes like famine, it also prophesies of the hope beyond. To learn more, please request a free copy of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Also request a copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like to learn more of how God plans to solve famine and all of man’s other problems.