MOGADISHU - The United Nations envoy in Somalia is warning that political and security improvements are not enough to stop hunger and stave off a worsening humanitarian crisis.
At least one million Somalis are at risk of starvation, according to UN officials.
Failed rains coupled with recurrent drought and conflict have further worsened the country’s protracted humanitarian crisis.
“Today, we have confirmation of the worsening of the food security we have now predicted for few months. Food security is once again a key concern for Somalia, as we had it before. Over 1 million people in the country face acute food insecurity, up to 20 percent compared to 6 months ago. This brings the total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance or livelihood support to over 3 million people," said Philippe Lazzarini, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia.
In the southern Somali town of Baidoa, drought has affected animal trade. Traders at the market say that it’s no longer business as usual for them.
And as pasture is depleting and riverbeds such as these ones are drying up, thousands that rely on this trade for survival fear a renewed humanitarian crisis in the region.
The image is the same in Elbur, in central Somalia. Water wells have run dry. UN officials recently visited the town to assess the humanitarian situation.
“The general situation was that we had identified six regions that were stricken by the drought, and two of them most severely suffered from water shortage, that is Gedo and Galgadud," said Abdi Ahmed Mohamed, Somalia's agriculture minister.
UN officials say that 250,000 children are among the one million people in need, with 50,000 believed to be on the brink of death if immediate assistance is not provided.
Somali authorities say that the response has been positive compared to the previous famine period. But officials warn that children and the elderly remain at risk.
“The disasters, including drought - those who suffer the most are the weakest. It’s the children and the elderly people who suffer the most," said Mohamed.
The top UN envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, recently told the UN Security Council that the humanitarian situation has deteriorated despite recent gains.
This, he said, has been worsened by al-Shabab terrorists' decision to impose a blockade on most towns they have lost to Somali and African Union soldiers.
A devastating famine in 2011 claimed a quarter million lives, according to the UN. But now, the UN, the government and its international partners are raising alarm early enough to avert the country from falling victim to a second famine in four years.