GENEVA - A senior United Nations official says famine has been averted in Somalia for now. He warns food shortages still loom and could result in a catastrophic situation if international support wanes.
The United Nations reports Somalia, for now, has averted the worst but that the country remains fragile and famine continues to stalk its people.
The World Food Program (WFP) country director in Somalia, Laurent Bukera, says 3.2 million people are in trouble. He says some 350,000 children are malnourished, including 70,000 severely malnourished.
Bukera says 700,000 people have fled their homes in search of food and water, and hundreds of thousands of livestock have died for lack of water and grazing land. He says more than 600 people died of cholera because they were too weak from hunger to fight off the disease.
Despite the bleak picture, Bukera says aid agencies have been able to prevent the worst. Unlike 2011, when 250,000 people died of famine, he says aid agencies, supported by the international community, have managed to avert a famine.
“Today, we have jumped into the window of opportunity," he said. "We have scaled up and not necessarily responded in a reactive manner. We have an ability to sustain and to maintain the assistance as a community, but the risk of halting this assistance is dreadful. The risk of halting this is bringing us directly where we started the year into a risk of catastrophe.”
Additional funding needed
Bukera tells VOA the U.N. needs funding to continue providing people with essential relief, which has, until now, succeeded in averting famine.
“At the moment, we are in need of close to $300 million for the next six months," he said. "Without that, we will have to drop the assistance to 2.5 million people and that includes close to one million children and pregnant and lactating women.”
Bukera says aid will have to continue beyond this year as the drought shows no signs of letting up and instability caused by the ongoing conflict with al-Shabab terrorists remains a serious problem.