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UN: Somalia Food Situation Improving, But Still at Risk

A displaced Somali woman carries a child and her belongings as she arrives at a temporary dwelling after fleeing famine in the Marka Lower Shebbele regions to the capital Mogadishu, Sept. 20, 2014.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says food security in Somalia has actually improved of late, following years of drought. But as experts point out, Somalia’s food situation is still far from normal.

The disastrous dry spells that have wracked war-torn Somalia for years seem to have loosened their grip on the country, at least for the moment.

New figures released by the FAO on Wednesday shows that the most recent rains in Somalia were normal, and that the number of people facing a food crisis has declined over the past six months by around 30 percent.

But these improvements may be temporary. Nina Dodd, who works with the U.N. Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, pointed out that other key indicators, such as child malnutrition, have not been improving. In some places, she said, they have actually been getting worse.

“Food security is not only responsible for nutrition. Malnutrition can be caused by a lot of factors. In south-central Somalia the situation is worse. We see critical levels of malnutrition,” said Dodd.

The devastating famine that struck Somalia between 2010 and 2012 killed more than a quarter of a million people -- half of them children under the age of five. The country’s U.N. humanitarian coordinator at the time said the international community was partly to blame, having not acted quickly enough to counter the effects of a severe drought.

FAO’s Rudy van Aaken said that although food security may have improved since then, the population is still vulnerable to even the slightest shock.

“Somalia is not out of the woods, that’s clear. We had a slight improvement in part of the country this time around, but we are not back to the situation as before the famine in 2010. Many more people -- 750,000 -- are still in crisis and emergency. And we don't see that this is a result of a sustainable improvement. It’s more the impact of the last rainy season, which happened to be quite good. But the next one may just as well be bad again,”

Continued support for farmers and pastoralists was needed to protect them against future droughts and dry spells, said van Aaken. The FAO’s current programs include vaccination of herds, irrigation and the introduction of drought-resistant crops.

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