News / Africa

WHO: Five More Regions in Southern Somalia on Brink of Famine

Somalis displaced by famine sit in their makeshift shelters in Mogadishu, Somalia, Friday, July 22, 2011
Somalis displaced by famine sit in their makeshift shelters in Mogadishu, Somalia, Friday, July 22, 2011

A senior official of the World Health Organization says five more regions in southern Somalia are on the brink of famine.  In a telephone briefing from Nairobi, WHO’s Representative for Somalia tells journalists in Geneva conditions for millions of people in the country affected by drought and violence are continuing to deteriorate.

WHO: Five More Regions in Southern Somalia on Brink of Famine
WHO: Five More Regions in Southern Somalia on Brink of Famine

WHO representative for Somalia, Marthe Everard, paints a very grim picture of Somalia where 3.7 million people, nearly one-half of the population, is in need of humanitarian assistance.  

She says up to 50 percent of children in southern regions of Somalia are malnourished.  And, adults too are malnourished because of lack of food.  She says bad nutrition leads to bad health.  She says there is a remarkable increase in measles and waterborne diseases also are on the rise.  

WHO has recorded more than 50,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea and cholera since January.   Everard says there is no breakdown as to the number of cholera cases.  But, adds the disease is under control.  She says there is no cholera epidemic because WHO has set up a good monitoring system.


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 per cent 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

Two days ago, the United Nations declared two regions in southern Somalia as suffering from famine.  Everard says a third region also is affected and famine appears to be spreading to other regions as well.  

“We have declared only three regions in south Somalia.  But, the five others are on the brink of also being seen as a famine.   So, these areas indeed appear to be coming to a full-blown famine if we are not responding from now on to this enormous crisis,” she said.  

The International Committee of the Red Cross is one of the few international organizations working in southern Somalia.  The agency says Somalia’s appalling humanitarian crisis has reached a new low point.  It notes more and more Somali people are leaving their country because their suffering has become unbearable.

ICRC spokeswoman, Nicole Engelbrecht, says conditions for the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people are particularly bad.  She says there has been a dramatic deterioration in their condition.  

She attributes much of this to the serious toll the drought is having on livestock.  She says livestock are severely affected by the lack of pasture and water, especially in the southern and central regions.  

“We have also seen that many animals, especially cattle have died.  And, this puts a difficult strain on the pastoralist families because the few animals that are still there are often too weak to give any milk.  That is actually one of the reasons why malnutrition rates have gone up, especially among children because this has a strongly negative impact on the nutrition of children who do not have access to this milk,” said Engelbrecht.  

The U.N. Children’s Fund estimates nearly 780,000 children under five in Somalia alone are malnourished and at risk of death without urgent assistance.  In total, it finds almost two and one quarter million children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are estimated to be acutely malnourished.

U.N. aid agencies have been asking the al-Qaida linked al-Shabab militant group for guarantees of safety so they can access southern Somalia and provide the millions of famine victims with assistance.  

Hopes for such guarantees appear to be dimming.  The rebel group recently denied the existence of famine in Somalia, calling U.N. reports of famine “sheer propaganda.”  U.N. aid agencies say the skeletal bodies of the Somali people, rising malnutrition rates and increasing number of deaths speak for themselves.

Somalia Refugees

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs