Somalia not yet in famine but still in danger, UN report says

Somalia has not yet fallen into famine but several parts of the country are in danger of it in the coming months, according to a new food security report on the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades.

The report released by the United Nations and other experts says more than 8 million people are badly food insecure as Somalia faces “an unprecedented level of need” after five consecutive failed rainy seasons and “exceptionally high” food prices. Thousands of people have died.

The report says the “most likely scenario” will see more than 700,000 people in famine between April and June of next year in two parts of Somalia’s southwestern Bay region and among displaced people in the town of Baidoa and the capital, Mogadishu.

Several other parts of central and southern Somalia also will see an increased risk of famine if a sixth straight rainy season fails early next year, the report says.

Food security experts earlier this year warned of famine in parts of Somalia by the end of 2022 without an increase in international humanitarian assistance. 

Humanitarian workers say the war in Ukraine has diverted the funding of some key donors. Hours after the new report was released Tuesday, the United States announced $411 million in additional funding for Somalia’s crisis.

Famine is the extreme lack of food and a significant death rate from outright starvation or malnutrition combined with diseases like cholera. 

A formal famine declaration means data shows more than a fifth of households have extreme food gaps, more than 30% of children are acutely malnourished and over two people out of 10,000 are dying every day.

But such data in Somalia are incomplete because of insecurity in some of the worst-affected areas, and some humanitarian groups assert that famine is even now well under way. 

Neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya also are struggling in the drought, but the new report offers a grim look at Somalia’s multiple crises. Insecurity caused by the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabab extremist group limits access to hungry people, and its fighters have destroyed water wells and food sources in retaliation for its losses in a new government offensive.

Meanwhile, food and fuel prices in Somalia have soared, part of a global problem. And crops have suffered, making food even more scarce for the months to come.

Some Somali officials, including the president, have expressed hesitation over declaring famine amid concerns it would take away from their efforts to show that the country is shedding its past as a failed state.

Food security experts earlier this year warned of famine in parts of Somalia by the end of this year if there was no increase in international humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarian workers say the war in Ukraine has diverted the funding of some key donors.

Famine is the extreme lack of food and a significant death rate from outright starvation or malnutrition combined with diseases like cholera.

A formal famine declaration means data shows more than a fifth of households have extreme food gaps, more than 30 percent of children are acutely malnourished and more than two out of 10,000 people are dying every day.

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