Somalia – Famine Looms

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Unless the international community acts soon the consequences of famine to the already troubled country could be devastating. 

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF have issued a warning that only immediate and large-scale humanitarian efforts can avert another serious catastrophe in the country.

The northern regions have been facing water shortages for over a year, spreading now across the southern parts of the country, hitting a population half of which – in the region of 6.2 million – are food insecure. The number of severely malnourished children is expected to increase by 50 percent.

“Huge numbers of Somalis have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth,” said Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative. “We have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children’s lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed,” reported Shabelle Media Network.

The situation has also caused a spike in waterborne diseases such as Acute Watery Diahorrea and Cholera. Many regions facing the threat of famine still have worryingly low levels of humanitarian provision and networks for support.

A number of countries including the UK and Norway have issued statements of support. The UK has said it will issues £100 million to Somalia and also South Sudan, where famine has been declared, reported Shabelle.

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People queuing at the Dolo Ado camp for aid in 2011 – CC

The famine has been exacerbated by consecutive droughts over the last two years and a particularly strong El Nino event which decimated crops and livestock. According to observers the situation is similar to the famine that hit Somalia six years ago, during which 260,000 people died and the international response was too slow.

Prices for water and livestock have rocketed. Before the famine a barrel of water cost in the region of US£2, although now it is in the region of $10, reported the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Near Diinsoor town, in Baay region, reports suggested that already as many as 30 people had died as a result of the famine and drought, reported Shabelle. It is difficult to gauge the speed at which the famine will hit, but it is looming large of much of eastern Africa.

In early February Somalia saw the election of a new President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed, and was also declared as one of the seven countries affected by US President Donald Trump‘s travel ban.

The new President faces serious challenges both politically, economically and socially, all of which are currently subsumed beneath the threat of famine. Immediate action is crucial – in 2011 more than 70 famine warnings were issued and by the time aid was dispatched it was already too late.

The last famine was confined to areas under militant group Al Shabaab‘s control in the south of the country, but this time areas in the north are also at risk. This presents a major test not only for the new president but also for the authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, reported Chatham House.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Drought Deepens and Spreads [Free to Access]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series,
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21495C–21496A

Hunger and Drought
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21455A–21455C

SOMALIA: Five Million Go Hungry
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21420A–21420B

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