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Famine Hits Somalia

Famine Hits Somalia

The news continues to worsen in the Horn of Africa, as the United Nations has declared famine in two regions in southern Somalia. What was regarded just recently as a severe humanitarian crisis has now crossed the threshold to famine, defined by the BBC as:

Nearly 3 million people in Somalia’s south endangered in the famine-stricken regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle.  Meanwhile, aid agencies struggle to secure safe access to areas of Somalia controlled by Al Shabab, the Al Qaeda affiliated militants who control parts of Somalia and who have only made a bad situation worse.  The militants chased away aid organizations from parts of Somalia last year and are also accused of siphoning off aid shipments or levying taxes on Somalis for access to aid to fund their activities.  They have now asked foreign aid agencies to return, and although there is continued fear for the safety of aid workers, the need is too great to stay away.

Mark Bowden, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, underscored the growing danger posed to the people in the region.

“If we don’t act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks…Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death for children and their families in the famine-affected areas.”

Another sobering assessment came from UN Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe, who said that “children are literally dying in the road,” as they try to move from drought-stricken areas toward relief.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) will be convening a ministerial-level meeting on July 25th to assess the problems caused by the drought in the Horn of Africa.  The French government, currently heading the G20, requested that the meeting take place, its second foray into a major food security issue in the last two months.

Meanwhile, if you would like to donate to aid organizations working in the Horn of Africa, you can read this earlier post for information.

Posted by Michael Lucivero.

Image credit: Globe and Mail, UNHCR/USAID