Posted by: irishhungercomm | August 14, 2011

UN declares famine in southern Somalia

Just so we remember that these tragedies continue to repeat in the age we live in.

From – Updated: 20:55, Wednesday, 20 July 2011

 The United Nations has declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia, where over 3m people have been affected by a prolonged drought.

The UN has said famine has hit two parts of southern Somalia due to a severe drought affecting more than 10m people in the Horn of Africa.

‘The United Nations declared today that famine exists in two regions of southern Somalia: southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle,’ the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs for Somalia said.

Al Shabaab, Islamist insurgents affiliated to al-Qaeda, control large parts of both areas.

‘Across the country nearly half of the Somali population – 3.7m people – are now in crisis, of whom an estimated 2.8m people are in the south,’ the UN said.

‘Consecutive droughts have affected the country in the last few years, while the ongoing conflict has made it extremely difficult for agencies to operate and access communities in the south of the country,’ it added.

Officials warned that unless urgent action was taken the areas affected by famine would grow.

‘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,’ Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told reporters.

Countries affected across the region include parts of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti, while the US has also urged Eritrea to reveal how severely it has been hit by the drought.

Famine implies having less than 2,100 kilocalories of food per day, acute malnutrition in more than 30% of the children and two deaths per 10,000 people every day, according to the Integrated Phase Classification, a food security measure used by the UN and other relief agencies.

Robinson visits refugee camp

Senior officials of three Irish aid agencies, working in the region, today visited the world’s largest refugee camp.

Afterwards they said conditions there are unacceptable in the 21st Century. They said a huge international response has to be undertaken immediately.

The situation was described as ‘truly shocking’ by Concern CEO Tom Arnold.

‘The people we have met, and the stories we have heard – families who have been separated, children and elderly people dying from hunger and disease, people walking for days and weeks to find help – are heartbreaking.’

Oxfam Ireland Chief Executive Jim Clarken said: ‘The crisis has been building for several months but the response from international donors and regional governments has been mostly slow and inadequate.’

UNICEF has said at least 500,000 children are at risk of death in the region, where high food prices and the driest years in decades have pushed many poor families into desperate need.

The UNHCR said yesterday it was seeking further security guarantees from armed rebels in Somalia in order to deliver greater amounts of assistance and prevent more hungry people from becoming refugees.

Last year, the World Food Programme suspended its aid operations across much of southern and central Somalia after al Shabaab ordered the UN agency to halt operations in areas under its control.


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