The scourge of famine haunts Somalia again

The serious food crisis affecting Somalia is degenerating into a great famine, which according to the latest estimates by the United Nations could involve 6.2 million people, approximately half of the population, while more than three million Somalis need immediate food.

The crisis was caused by drought, which for three years has hit the Horn of Africa country, as a result of the meteorological phenomenon of El Niño, tied to the extraordinary warming of surface waters of the oceans.

The drought in East Africa, as we read in the last FAO bulletin for monitoring food prices, has slowed sharply crops and pushed prices of cereals and other staple foods at unusually high levels, leading to serious risks for the population of the region.

The highest price paid by children

If the rains will be less copious than expected nothing to prevent a real food catastrophe, which according to the most recent estimates of the FSNAU (Food Security and Nutrition Analysis for Somalia) will affect first of all the children.

The figures provided by the body financed by USAID and managed by the FAO, point out that in addition 363mila Somali children are severely malnourished and later this year other 270 thousand are likely to face heavy food shortages. The most frightening is that 71 thousand are in serious condition and need to be artificially fed to survive the hunger pangs.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, child malnutrition has now reached record levels and the most affected are mainly children under five. In Kismayo Hospital, supported by the International Red Cross, were recorded at the end of February 369 new admissions, 40% more than in the same period last year. The structure is one of the few centres in central and southern Somalia where malnourished children can receive assistance.

Mogadishu central government has meanwhile begun to disclose the body count. The first figure, provided last Saturday by Prime Minister Ali Hassan Khaire, is 110 people died of hunger in just 48 hours, in the Bay region, in the south-western part of the country, the most affected by serious food crisis. In most cases, the victims were women and children killed by diarrhoea and other diseases transmitted through water.

Aid agencies believe that the third famine that could hit Somalia in twenty-five years has now almost inevitable, but above all fear that it could assume the same gravity than that in 2011 produced more than 260 thousand deaths, over half of whom were children.

The worsening drought and the materialization of the famine, on 28 February, led the newly elected president of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed "Farmajo" to proclaim a state of national disaster and appeal to the international community to receive emergency aid, indispensable to avert a humanitarian tragedy.

864 million dollars

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that to develop a plan of appropriate humanitarian response to support the Somali people and to avert the famine risk, is needed 864 million dollars. While the World Food Programme of the United Nations (WFP) recently requested the allocation of an additional 374 million dollars to respond to the emergency drought.

According to Oxfam, the famine that is going to invest Somalia is a failure of food production, people ability to access food and political response of governments and major international donor agencies.

Not surprisingly, Mogadishu was the first destination of the new UN Secretary General's mission, António Guterres, who has accused the international community to completely ignore this crisis which has become endemic.

In all this, vast parts of the country, including Mogadishu, regularly suffers attacks by the extremist group al Shabaab, affiliate with al Qaeda. The on-going violence in the country makes it much more difficult, while the humanitarian organizations have limited access to the cities and rural areas, which are under the control of Somali jihadists.

Not to mention, that the Horn of Africa country has been ravaged by decades of civil war and hundreds of thousands of people are still living in IDP camps.

Moreover, the continuing drought increases the ranks of the displaced and the hungry in other countries of the region, such as South Sudan, where on 20 February, the state of famine has been acknowledged by the United Nations. While the north of Nigeria and Yemen are fast hurtling towards a full-blown famine condition. A situation that looks worrying also in Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi.

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