UN warns famine could spread to southern Somalia

DUBAI — The famine in five regions of southern Somalia could spread to the entire area if relief supplies do not reach the starving population on time. The next four to six weeks could be crucial, according to a senior UN official, who said the humanitarian effort should be stepped up before it is too late.


Allan Jacob

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Published: Mon 22 Aug 2011, 1:31 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Jul 2020, 11:18 AM

Abdul Haq Amiri, Head of Office, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Regional Office for the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (ROMENACA), sounded the alarm while speaking to this newspaper from Cairo. ‘‘The rest of southern Somalia could follow (into full- fledged famine) within the next four to six weeks. A continued scaling up of humanitarian operations and access to those in need is vital.’’
Bakool, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, the Afgooye corridor and Mogadishu have been officially declared famine-hit.
The UN does not foresee an immediate end to the crisis, considered the worst in 60 years, with the fluid political situation in Somalia and extremism only compounding the misery. ‘‘The political situation in Somalia changes rapidly and this has an impact on the humanitarian situation. In terms of the famine, we foresee that the crisis will continue until the end of the year.’’ But the UN hopes the situation will begin to improve from early 2012.
Efforts to feed an estimated 12 million starving population has met with limited success due to the precarious security situation, said Amiri.
‘‘We have asked the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) to ensure security for the people of Mogadishu, particularly the most vulnerable, including the internally displaced (IDPs).
Regarding theft of food aid, the World Food Programme has strongly condemned any actions that would take even the smallest amount of food from starving and vulnerable Somalis, and will rigorously investigate any allegations of theft of humanitarian food , he said.
The militant Al Shabaab announced its retreat from Mogadishu on August 6, but fear still hovers over capital Mogadishu. Negotiators are discussing with armed groups in Somalia to help arrange access to populations.
Amiri said there are currently 640,000 malnourished children in Somalia, with 310,000 suffering from severe-acute malnutrition. In July, 23,000 children in southern Somalia were given therapeutic, life-saving food. An additional 107,000 children have received supplementary food in south-central Somalia.
The UN has received pledges for $1.3 billion of the $2.4 billion for relief efforts in the Horn of Africa. On its part, the UN has established an easy way for ordinary people to contribute to help ease the suffering. Prospective donors can e-mail supportfaminerelief@un.org .allan@khaleejtimes.com

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