Famine to spread across southern Somalia - UN

The food crisis in the Horn of Africa is likely to continue for most of 2011 and famine is expected to spread to the whole of southern Somalia, the UN said on 29 July.



“The current food security emergency across the region is expected to persist at least for the coming three to four months,” the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a new regional overview.



In Somalia, the crisis is expected to worsen, “with all areas in the south slipping into famine”, OCHA said.



The agency cited high levels of severe acute malnutrition and under-five mortality, below-average harvest forecasts, a deterioration of pastoral conditions and continued increases in cereal prices.



UN agencies reviewed the humanitarian requirements upwards and now say US$2.48 billion is needed, of which $1.5 billion has been contributed to date.



At present, 12.39 million people are severely affected across the region and need urgent life-saving assistance. This figure could go up by 25 percent in the coming months, OCHA said.



The security situation in Somalia has seriously hampered relief efforts. On 28 July, fighting broke out in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, as African Union troops battled militants in an offensive aimed at protecting aid delivery efforts.



A total of 2.2 million people needing food aid are not being reached in southern Somalia.



“If access for humanitarian aid and workers to the worst-affected areas of Somalia does not improve, continued flows of refugees to the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders can be expected,” OCHA said.



There are now more than 350,000 Somalis in Dadaab, northeastern Kenya, and about 130,000 in Dolo Ado, Ethiopia, according to OCHA. Every day, another 1,300 arrive in Dadaab, and 240 at the Ethiopian camps.



“Malnutrition remains a major concern in Dolo Ado. There is a 30 percent severe acute malnutrition rate in new arrivals,” Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, the UNHCR spokesperson told reporters in Geneva.



“Increasingly, recent arrivals are reporting that they finally made the decision to flee when the last of their animals died and they had no further source of income or food,” she said.



pfm/js/mw