Somalia drought: first official death toll of 110 as famine looms
National disaster declared; UN estimates five million lives in danger in Horn of Africa
A Somali woman sits with her children at their camp in Mogadishu. Thousands have been streaming into the capital in search of food aid. Photograph: Feisal Omar/Reuters
More than 100 people have died from hunger over the weekend in a single region of Somalia, the country’s prime minister said.
It is the first death toll announced in a severe drought threatening millions of people across the country.
Somalia’s government declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that five million people in the Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine.
The death toll of 110 announced by prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire is from the Bay region in the southwest of the country.
All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the UN chief said.
UN humanitarian co-ordinator Stephen O’Brien is expected to visit Somalia in the next few days.
Thousands have been streaming into the capital Mogadishu in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies.
More than 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding centre recently.
The drought is the first crisis for Somalia’s newly elected Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.
Previous droughts and a quarter of a century of conflict, including continuing attacks by extremist group al-Shabab, have left the country fragile.
Mr Mohamed has appealed to the international community and Somalia’s diaspora of two million people for help.
About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished”, the US Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned.
Because of a lack of clean water in many areas, there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, UN experts say. Some deaths from cholera have already been reported.
The government has said the widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks”.