News / Africa

Somalia Famine Spreads to New Areas

A malnourished refugee from Somalia at a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in Dadaab, Kenya, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011.
A malnourished refugee from Somalia at a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in Dadaab, Kenya, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Gabe Joselow

The United Nations says three more areas of Somalia have now slipped into famine.  The famine is expected to spread further unless there is immediate intervention.

The U.N.'s food security analysis unit and a famine warning project known as FEWS-NET say the famine in southern Somalia is growing worse.

Definition of Famine:

The word famine is a term that is not used lightly by humanitarian organizations. The United Nations describes a crisis as a famine only when the following conditions are met:

  • Malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent
  • More than two people per 10,000 people are dying each day
  • Severe lack of food access for large population

Current Famine:

    Almost half of Somalia's population, 3.7 million people, are affected by the current crisis with malnutrition rates in southern Somalia the highest in the world, surpassing 50 percent in some areas. The United Nations says it is likely that tens of thousands have already have died, the majority of those being children.

    The drought that has led to the current famine in parts of Somalia has also affected people in Kenya and Ethiopia.

    Previous Famines in the Horn of Africa:

  • Somalia 1991-1992
  • Ethiopia 1984-1985
  • Ethiopia 1974

New data shows more people are dying and suffering from acute malnutrition in areas of the Middle Shabelle region, as well as among the displaced people of Mogadishu and the Afgoye corridor, to the west of the capital.

Until now, famine conditions had been detected in only two areas, Lower Shabelle and Bakool in south central Somalia.

The chief technical advisor for the U.N. food security unit for Somalia, Grainne Moloney, says conditions in these displaced communities are especially "depressing."

"It's a hugely vulnerable group who have already been displaced from their homes and were reliant on humanitarian assistance, and of course with the restrictions in access and the restrictions in funding, did not get that assistance," said Moloney.  "About three years ago the malnutrition rate was about 12 percent there and to see that it's now 40 percent is very disheartening."

Famine is a technical designation that means at least 30 percent of the population is malnourished, households are lacking access to food and that there have been deaths from hunger.

There are no solid figures on the number of deaths per day, but it is estimated to be in the hundreds.

The U.N. has appealed for more than $1 billion to address the crisis and has so far raised about 40 percent of the money it has requested.

Maloney says more assistance is needed immediately.

"There need to be massive interventions now to the 2.8 million people in the south that need assistance and that needs to include food, nutrition, water, health and agriculture inputs.  They need everything right now and they need it now, they cannot afford to wait," Moloney added.

Maloney says there is some hope for Mogadishu, where displaced people are within the reach of humanitarian organizations who are expanding their efforts on the ground.

"I think the conditions in Mogadishu could certainly be reversed and I know a lot of the agencies on the ground are really stepping up on their interventions, so I'm sure that is one of the areas we can confidently say where the situation will improve," Moloney noted.

The crisis in Somalia was caused by a severe cycle of drought, which some say is the worst in 60 years.  But it was made worse by the lack of a functioning central government and restrictions on aid enforced by the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.

The U.N. expects famine to spread to other regions of southern Somalia within the next four to six weeks and to last at least until December.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs