UN declares famine in more parts of Somalia

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pretoria - The United Nations has declared famine in three more areas in drought-ravaged Somalia, bringing to five the number of regions in the Horn of Africa country, where acute malnutrition and starvation have already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, said the Afgoye corridor outside Mogadishu, the capital itself, and the Middle Shabelle region are now in a state of famine.

On 20 July, the UN declared outright famine in Lower Shabelle and in southern Bakool region.

Famine can be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. They are: at least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope; acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%; and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10 000 persons.

The spread of famine conditions highlights the seriousness of the food crisis facing internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mogadishu. The declaration of famine in the capital follows the massive influx of starving adults and children into the city in the past two months.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, said that the appeal for funds to respond to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa region -- including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti - are only 44% covered, with an additional $1.4 billion still required to cover unmet needs.

An estimated 12.4 million people in the entire region are in need of assistance, according to OCHA.

Meanwhile, a South African plane from the NGO Gift of the Givers, carrying high-end specialised paediatric ready-to-drink milk supplements, high energy and protein ready-to-eat food supplements for children and adults; intravenous fluids, antibiotics, malaria medication, and other medical supplies, food and hygiene items and is expected to leave for Somalia today.