250 000 Somalians face ‘imminent starvation’

2011-11-19 10:23

Hunger and drought is receding in Somalia, but 250 000 people remain on the verge of “imminent starvation,” the United Nations said yesterday in a new assessment.

The UN downgraded the situation in three regions – Bay, Bakool, and Lower Shabelle – from level five, or “famine,” to level four.

Food security still remained at the lowest levels in Somalia since 1991, when the central government collapsed and civil war erupted. Somalia’s hunger situation was among the worst in the world, the UN said.

“Death rates, especially for young children, remain extremely high, in part due to continued outbreaks of measles, cholera, and malaria,” the UN’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit said.

Tens of thousands of people have died since April, according to the UN, and more deaths are “likely” in the coming months.

“Famine is not expected in Somalia during 2012,” the UN said. The organisation warned, however, that at least 4 million people in Somalia – more than a third of the population – would still require food aid over the next nine months.

Particularly worrying was the plight of the vulnerable internally displaced people who would likely face the most severe conditions, including a desperate lack of food.

More than 1.5 million people were displaced inside the country, while at least 900 000 Somalis lived abroad, many in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

According to the latest assessment by the food unit, improvements in humanitarian aid delivery helped save lives over the past months.

Since mid-year, international agencies were delivering more food and medicine, in part owing to a scaled-up response to the crisis.

Also, there was now increased access to southern Somalia, after Islamist militia al-Shabaab lifted most restrictions on humanitarian workers.

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