Famine in Somalia expected to have spread


THE FAMINE in Somalia is spreading to other regions, the United Nations is expected to announce today, with more than 50 per cent of the country’s population now facing severe food shortages.

A UN official refused to be drawn on the exact details of a new report indicating the extent of the crisis, but said that they expected it would show that the famine had spread. The UN has declared a famine in the Somali regions of Bakool, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, the Afgoye Corridor and parts of the capital Mogadishu, with reports indicating that the Bay region in south central Somalia will be added to the list. Bay has experienced a complete crop failure in some districts.

“It’s spreading to other districts and we anticipate that more people will be affected and move to camps and urban districts” said Amanda Koech, a spokesperson with the aid agency World Vision Somalia.

“Communities are being hit faster than normal because even if the rains come in October it will be January before the crops are ready.” Some four million people in the war-torn and drought-hit country are in crisis, say aid agencies, with the figure expected to rise.

Although the number of people on the move to refugee camps is decreasing, “rates of malnutrition and mortality are increasing and communicable diseases continue to spread” the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report released on Friday. “The Somalia Food Security Nutrition Analysis Unit warns . . . that almost all regions of the south could face famine. The situation in Somalia is deteriorating”.

At the 25,000-capacity Kobe camp in Ethiopia, medical screening of arrivals is recording severe acute malnutrition among 19 per cent of children, the UNHCR has said. At nearby Hilaweyn, the rate is 16 per cent while in Melkadida and Bokolmanyo it is 10 and 7 per cent. The agency considers a rate of more than 1 per cent to be alarming.

In neighbouring Eritrea the situation could be worse, according to data, but assessing the scale of the crisis has been difficult because of the secretive nature of the country’s regime. Less than 10 per cent of the expected rains for the June 1st-August 10th period have fallen in some parts of the country, according to the satellite monitoring Famine Early Warning System Network, casting doubt on the government’s assertions that the country had a bumper harvest. Eritrea is one of the most secretive countries in the world, with no free press or opposition.

According to the UN, a famine implies that at least 20 per cent of households face extreme food shortages with 30 per cent of people facing severe malnutrition.