Friday, 5 August 2011

Famine is spreading, says U.N.

Another three regions in Somalia are in famine, the U.N. declared on August 3 as it warned that the international humanitarian response to the crisis has been inadequate.
The U.N. said the prevalence of acute malnutrition and rates of mortality surpassed the famine thresholds in areas of Middle Shabelle, the Afgoye corridor refugee settlement and internally displaced communities in Mogadishu, the capital. The U.N. last month said two other regions in southern Somalia — Bakool and Lower Shabelle — were suffering from famine, defined as when acute malnutrition exceeds 30 per cent and when the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 a day.
About 450,000 people live in Somalia's famine zones, said Grainne Moloney, Chief Technical Adviser for the U.N.'s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.
The U.N.'s food arm, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said famine is likely to spread across all regions of Somalia's south in the next four to six weeks, with famine conditions likely to last until December.
A humanitarian emergency exists across all other regions of southern Somalia, and there have already been tens of thousands, according to the U.N.
Till December
“The current humanitarian response remains inadequate, due in part to ongoing access restrictions and difficulties in scaling up emergency assistance programmes, as well as funding gaps,” said the U.N.'s famine early warning system network. As a result, famine is expected to spread across all regions of the south in the coming four to six weeks and is likely to persist until at least December 2011. Continued efforts to implement an immediate, large-scale, and comprehensive response are needed.” Aid efforts have been hampered in the south as elements of al-Shabaab, the Islamist insurgents, have refused access to western relief agencies. Throughout Somalia, 3.7 million people are in crisis, with 3.2 million people in need of immediate, lifesaving assistance, 2.8 million of whom are in the south.
A senior U.N. official, on August 3 appealed to all Somalis, both inside and outside the country, to work together to support the peace process and alleviate the plight of those suffering from famine.
“This is a time of great crisis, but also of rare opportunity. It is a time for everyone to pull together to help those suffering and to work towards a better future for all,” Augustine Mahiga, the U.N. Special Representative for Somalia, said in a letter to the Somali diaspora. “I appeal to all those who are able — Somalis and the international community alike — to give as much as they can during this holy month (Ramadan) to feed the hungry, heal the sick and prevent the famine spreading further.” Mahiga noted that one of the contributing factors to the famine has been the fighting in the country and he criticised extremists for preventing the movement of people from the worst-hit areas.
“We call for the humanitarian agencies to be given unhindered access to all areas to provide desperately needed help,” he said. 

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