20 July 2011

Famine In Somalia

UN Declares Famine in Somalia

Somalia has been fraught with civil unrest for many years, most notably now much of the south and centre of the country are controlled by Al-Shabab, a group closely affiliated with al-Qaeda. In 2009 the group banned foreign aid agencies access to its territory, only recently allowing aid into limited areas. The worst drought seen in the country for 50 years has not been dealt with as well as it could have been, the recent violence and civil leaving the country ill-equipped. Now Somalia is suffering badly from famine, especially in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle where the gravity of the situation has escalated rapidly.

The UN have not declared a famine in the country since 1992. The majority of aid agencies such as the FAO, Save the Children UK and Oxfam, only label a crisis as a famine when the area in question reaches level 5 on the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system. This level means that a minimum of 20% of the entire population have access to fewer than 2100 kilocalories worth of food per day, acute malnutrition is seen in over 30% of minors, and 2 people die in every 10,000 or there are 4 child deaths in every 10,000 children each day. This is the case in Somalia at the moment, and may spread to Ethiopia and Kenya who also saw little rainfall, and therefore depleted crops, since the beginning of the year.

The UN have said that getting aid to the worst affected regions have been limited by the need for further safety guarantees from the armed Al-Shabab across the country to ensure the safety of aid workers. So far over 10 million people have been affected by the famine, and over 25% of the country’s population have been displaced from their homes. The UN and the Disasters Emergency Committee are calling for much needed donations to the cause, as Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Somalia, has said that $300 million is needed to tackle the famine over the next two months.

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