UN declares famine in two Somali states

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Laurie MacGregor reports from Somalia

Famine has swept through two areas of Somalia, the United Nations officially declares today, confirming the analysis of ACT agencies working in the country.

While the announcement refers to the Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of southern Somalia, ACT predicts that the entire south will face famine within weeks. There is ample evidence that millions of people in Somalia already have little or no access to food, are acutely malnourished and are at risk of starvation in under two months, says the 78-member Somalia NGO Consortium, in which ACT participates. More than 3.7 million Somalis, or half of the entire population, are in need of humanitarian assistance. In some areas in south central Somalia, more than half of the population is malnourished - of whom more than one in four is severely malnourished.

UN coordinating network OCHA estimates that as many as ten million people are now affected by drought and food shortages accross the Horn of Africa. The situation is described as the worst for 60 years. Somalia, where ACT member Norwegian Church Aid is now hard at work distributing food to over 30,000 people, is one of the worst affected.

Aid underway
"We are already underway in our efforts to distribute 262 tonnes of flour and 52 tonnes of cooking oil to the hardest-hit areas of Gedo province in Somalia. This first delivery will assist over 30,000 people in four villages for around a month. However, needs are huge. We received over US $700,000 from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs towards Somalia earlier this year, but we are now applying for more," explains NCA's Gaim Kebreab, in Somalia and Kenya.

He describes a situation under which people are beoming increasingly desperate now that their crops have dried out and died, and animals are now dying in large numbers.

"Food prices have exploded this last year, and for many, the need for food and water is acute," says Kebreab.

An assessment team was sent last week to the affected areas to evaluate the situation and plan a relief effort. ACT has worked in this region of Africa for decades, and has a strong local network of partner organisations on the ground that can ensure a rapid and effective response.

Towards famine
ACT raised the alarm about the dramatically deteriorating situation accross Africa's Horn three months ago, but it has taken time for the international community to respond. Hunger and drought are far from a new phenomenon in this part of Africa, but now that two rains in a row have failed at the same time as food prices have increased, the threat of famine spreading across the whole of southern Somalia is very real.

"The population of Somalia, and accross the region, need all the help they can get right now," says Kebreab.


Gaim Kebreab, area representative for Somalia/Kenya, tel. +254 733 609 936
NCA press hotline: +47 932 42 493