Somalia is facing the worst humanitarian crisis of the past 18 years, with an estimated 3.76 million people - half the population - needing aid as security deteriorates, officials say.
"The recent post-Gu [long rains] analysis by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit [FSNAU of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization] indicates that this is the worst humanitarian crisis in Somalia in the last 18 years, since the collapse of the previous government," Graham Farmer, head of the FAO and acting UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told IRIN on 25 August.
He said the number now needing humanitarian aid had increased due to heightened conflict in some areas and drought in others.
"Thus, despite the extraordinary efforts of humanitarian workers, the crisis factors are intensifying," Farmer said.
"I call upon all those who control territory in Somalia to recognize and respect humanitarian agencies and to support their unhindered access to populations in need."
Cindy Holleman, chief technical adviser at FSNAU in Somalia, said the current situation "signals a serious deterioration in the emergency food security and nutrition situation from earlier this year.
"More worrying is that the escalating fighting and conflict [are] occurring in the same areas where we are now recording the greatest problems of food access and malnutrition," she said. "This will not only place additional burdens on the people already in crisis, but will also make it difficult for humanitarian relief to reach the vulnerable populations most in need of humanitarian and life-saving interventions."
On 24 August, FSNAU issued a statement saying most of the people in need, or 75 percent of the 3.76 million, were concentrated in south and central Somalia – where the fighting is greatest and the areas most inaccessible to humanitarian operations.
Photo: Mohamed Amin Jibril/IRIN
In parts of the country, drought has led to poor pasture and weak livestock, in some cases livestock deaths - file photo
Abdullahi Shirwa, a civil society activist, told IRIN the worst-affected were displaced people and children.
He said the spread of fighting had led to many people being displaced from their homes in small towns in south and central Somalia.
"The displaced around Mogadishu get some help, however little, but those in the smaller towns away from Mogadishu have no access to help," Shirwa said.
He called on humanitarian agencies "to be creative" and do all they can to reach these people. "Saying we cannot reach you now is a death sentence on those people [rural and small-town displaced]."
FSNAU said the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) had increased significantly since January, from one million to more than 1.42 million people now, a 40 percent increase in six months.
The agency said: "One in five children are acutely malnourished, while one in 20 are severely malnourished. Earlier this year the numbers were one in six children. These national rates of acute malnutrition are amongst the highest in the world.
|Saying we cannot reach you now is a death sentence on those people [rural and small-town displaced]|
“An estimated 285,000 children under five are acutely malnourished, of whom 70,000 are severely malnourished and at an increased risk of death if they do not receive the appropriate specialist care."
The food security and nutrition situation of the pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in the north is deteriorating after two to three consecutive seasons of below-normal rainfall, FSNAU warned.
FSNAU said humanitarian access to these regions was good, unlike south and central Somalia; "therefore it is critical that these areas receive appropriate levels of emergency livelihood support and nutrition response, to prevent a further deterioration into humanitarian emergency".