One year since famine, 2.5 million at risk in Somalia – UN

2012-07-17 10:48

More than 2.5 million people in war-torn Somalia remain in crisis despite huge global aid efforts and the situation may worsen, one year after famine zones were declared there, the the UN has warned.

“Mortality and malnutrition rates in Somalia have improved dramatically but remain among the highest in the world,” Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, told reporters in the Kenyan capital today.

“We must build on the gains made since famine was declared in July 2011 or they could be reversed,” Bowden said, adding that some 323 000 children are acutely malnourished, about a fifth of all children under five.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have died last year after extreme drought and war pushed several areas of southern Somalia into famine last July.

Although the famine was declared over in February, dire conditions remain, with concerns the situation will decline in coming months due to poor rains, a likely late harvest and ongoing conflict.

“Conflict and the lack of access to people in need remain major operational challenges,” he said, adding that donors had so far provided around half of the cash required, with a $576 million (about R4.7 billion) gap remaining.

“Drought in the region is recurrent and Somalia is at the epicentre of this cycle,” he said.

Southern Somalia – the main battleground between African Union troops and Ethiopian forces against Islamist al-Shebab fighters – is an area of special concern, he said, with the region’s crucial harvest hit hard by poor rains.

“The humanitarian situation will likely deteriorate further before recovery is possible,” he said. “The number of people in need will likely increase during the second half of the year.”

Somalia, ravaged by nearly uninterrupted civil war for the past two decades, is one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers – and one of the regions that needs them most.

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