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UN Declares End to Famine in Somalia, Danger Remains

Good news: Conditions in Somalia have improved enough for the UN to declare an end to the 8-month famineBad news: The food security situation remains perilous for Somalis.

The declaration of the end of drought conditions is good news, but it brings the risk that the international community will see it as the end of the crisis gripping the people in the Horn of Africa.  One resident of a refugee camp in Mogadishu explained, “‘The famine is almost over but we are desperately dependent on the food aid… If they stop it we will be back to [famine conditions] again. Our children are now better than before, but we ask the United Nations still to help us.’”

Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia explained,

“We mustn’t give the impression that we’ve solved the problem…What we’ve done is actually reduced the very high levels of mortality and malnutrition which caused so much suffering. And we are now in the position to make even further progress to help people get back to normal lives. But we’ve still quite a long way from a return to normal and secure situations.”

On the ground, nearly 31% of Somalia’s population, or 2.3 million, are still in need of humanitarian assistance.  In the Horn of Africa region, 9.5 million people are expected to need ongoing humanitarian assistance.  Jose Graziano da Silva reminded the public of the continued danger in Somalia by saying  the crisis “‘…can only be resolved with a combination of rains and continued, coordinated, long-term actions that build up the resilience of local populations and link relief with development.’”

Another factor which may be helping with is the weakening of the al-Shabab militant group in Somalia.  BBC reports that while it has been pushed back by foreign forces,  al-Shabab’s deleterious effect on food security is evident in moves like preventing the International Committee for the Red Cross from carrying out its aid mission.

Image credit: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images/NPR