Famine to be declared in Somalia

A displaced Somali woman cries after one of her children died of malnutrition at a camp near Mogadishu airport War-torn Somalia is proving the most difficult for aid agencies to access because of insecurity

A famine is about to be declared in some parts of Somalia.

Multiple aid sources have confirmed that the United Nations will use the emotive word on Wednesday, after analysing the latest statistics and reports from the Horn of Africa.

"It will galvanise international attention," said a senior official from a western charity, speaking on condition of anonymity about the embargoed announcement.

"It enables us to say to those who tell us: 'You're crying wolf' - look at this. The situation is deteriorating rapidly."

The UN is expected to declare a famine in at least two regions of south central Somalia - Bakool and Lower Shabele. Other regions, including Puntland, are likely to be identified as being at risk of famine in the coming weeks unless the supply of aid increases substantially.

The last time a famine was declared in Somalia - or anywhere else according to some aid organisations - was in 1992. Ever since then, the country has been plagued by conflict, drought and poverty.

The word "famine" itself is used with extreme, almost scientific, caution by aid organisations. (See factbox)

Definition of Famine

  • More than 30% of children must be suffering from acute malnutrition
  • Two adults or four children must be dying of hunger each day for every group of 10,000 people
  • The population must have access to far below 2,100 kilocalories of food per day

Although the current drought has severely affected people in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, war-torn Somalia is proving the most difficult to access because of insecurity.

The militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, controls - or exerts some influence over - much of the countryside, and banned foreign aid agencies two years ago.

On the ground, some aid organisations have continued to find ways around that ban, negotiating with individual communities and commanders and working through intermediaries.

Al-Shabab recently announced that some foreign groups would be allowed to resume direct delivery of humanitarian supplies, but that process remains fraught with complications and tensions.

Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Somalian Civil service reduced to 25,000 employees by 1995 (in country of 6,000,000). Collapse of the govt of General Siad Barre in January 1991 - further tightening over public spending, restructuring of the Central Bank, liberalization of credit (which thwarted private sector) liquidation & divestiture of most of the state enterprises.
    This IS a totally man-made FAMINE.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    IMF-WB have led Somali economy into: decimation of herds, dislocation of nomadic pastoralists, starvation - backlashes on grain producers who sold or bartered their grain for cattle. The collapse in foreign exchange earnings from declining cattle exports - backlashes on the balance of payments & Somali finances breakdown.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    In 1969, a post-colonial government was formed under President Mohamed Siad Barre; major social programs in health and education were implemented, rural and urban infrastructure was developed in the course of the 1970s, significant social progress including a mass literacy program was achieved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Two thirds of Somalia was allocated: Conoco, Amoco, Chevron & Phillips; Somalia's President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown. Nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991. US insists mission in Somalia was/is strictly humanitarian. Oil industry Spokespersons dismiss allegations President George Bush, a former Texas oilman, was moved to act by US corporate oil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Economic dislocation preceded civil war in 1991. Economic & social chaos resulted from IMF "economic package". Somalia was transformed into a territory. Why? This territory has significant oil wealth. US oil giants had already positioned themselves: Beneath surface Somalia tragedy, 4 major U.S. oil companies are sitting on exclusive concessions to explore (exploit) territorial Somalia.


Comments 5 of 36



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