Innovative virtual reality film provides stark insight into life in drought-affected Somalia

‘Famine’ is one of a series of four immersive films highlighting the tangible consequences of climate change.  Save the Children is launching this virtual reality (VR) film which transports the viewer to the parched land of northern Somalia. The charity partnered with Participant Media and Condition One, who filmed and produced This is Climate Change, a critically-acclaimed VR film series that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The film is now available for media outlets from today to host on their websites (see embed code in notes to editors).   

‘Famine’ was shot in drought-devastated communities in Puntland, northern Somalia, in 2017 and tells the stories of a camel herder, a grieving mother, and a doctor who stops at nothing to save the lives of those starving babies.

Using advanced 3D 360 stereoscopic technology, the film takes audiences inside a Save the Children-supported intensive care ward for severely malnourished children.

The film can be found here.

Save the Children Ambassador Sir Mo Farah who was born in Somalia and is a strong advocate for his country of birth, said: “It breaks my heart to see children suffering in these drought-hit areas of Somalia. Climate change is affecting the poorest communities year after year – from drought, to floods, to conflict – and these people are enduring so much.  

“I am a father of four kids and I can only begin to imagine how painful it must be to listen to your children begging for food and water as they become weaker by the day.  These youngsters are especially vulnerable, and they shouldn’t have to suffer.”

The film’s release coincides with survey data from Save the Children and Action Against Hunger, gathered in March and published today which found that one in five children in these displacement settlements is suffering from malnutrition.

Currently there are 2.6 million displaced people in Somalia, the majority forced from their homes because of the recent drought, including half a million this year alone.  An average of 2,777 people are being displaced every day in 2018 after losing their crops, livestock and livelihoods. 

“Whilst the drought is over, the battle to save lives is not.” said Timothy Bishop, Country Director for Save the Children Somalia.  “Malnutrition remains a major concern, because rain is not an immediate treatment for malnutrition. For every failed rainy season, communities tell us they need at least two normal rains to harvest crops and for livestock herds to regenerate. Unfortunately, floods have now swept away many of the new crops and killed many of the remaining goats.”

“Somalia is experiencing a complete polarization of weather, from the worst drought, to the worst floods in 50 years,” Bishop added. “This is climate change in action and its devastating impact meted out on the most vulnerable. It’s outrageous that Somalia has the world’s worst child death rate — 13 percent of children do not live to see their fifth birthday.” 

“This Is Climate Change uses the unique immersive qualities of virtual reality to show the tangible impact of a global issue that can sometimes feel remote,” says Elise Pearlstein, Senior Vice President of Documentary Film and Television for Participant Media. “Hopefully through the series and the episode ‘Famine’, people will be compelled to learn more, and most importantly, to get involved.”

Save the Children is committed to working together to sustain life-saving assistance for children and families affected by drought and flood.  Some 5.4 million people need humanitarian assistance.  The aid agency is calling on donors to invest in long-term resilience building to help Somali communities better withstand the shocks of disasters and bounce back much quicker.


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