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Somalis, After 2 Famines, Still Face Food Insecurity


After decades of conflict, experts say that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia remains among the worst in the world.

Three million people need aid, says Philippe Lazzarini, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the country. Of these, "740,000 Somalis still face acute insecurity, while an additional 2.3 million are at risk of sliding back into the same situation.

"They are teetering on the edge," Lazzarini says, "and we never know in which direction the food security situation of these people will go."

South central region hardest hit

Most areas facing food insecurity are in south central Somalia. In 2011, the U.N. estimated that 250,000 Somalis lost their lives in the country's worst famine in six decades.

Oxfam International, the anti-poverty confederation, says the difference between food insecurity and famine comes down to one factor: political failure to act.

Despite a dire food situation, Somalia's young government and international donors are acting to improve people's access to food – a second key factor in preventing famine.

In the Bay region, arable farmlands have been left bare, with most locals moving to urban areas such as Mogadishu, where U.N. and Turkish aid agencies are assisting them in camps.

Production improving

Food production is the third critical element in preventing famine.

In Lower Shabelle region, one of Somalia’s major breadbaskets, farmers have improved output following rains and the exit of the terrorist group, al-Shabab.

Lazzarini says several other factors have helped prevent the crisis from worsening, including a reasonably good rainy season, "some improvements of flow of goods in south central region" and "a sustained humanitarian response."

For years, al-Shabab blocked major supply routes. However, recent military operations by the national army and African Union forces have reopened them.

And now the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization plans to start buying grains from Somali farmers.

U.N. humanitarian organizations say despite all these improvements, urgent funding is still needed to improve protection of displaced people, provide durable solutions, and strengthen communities’ resilience to withstand shocks.

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