Somalia: Deepening Famine Crisis, Millions Displaced

Somalia famineJuly 26, 2011 -- The drought and famine crisis in Somalia is deepening, with millions in need for immediate assistance, according to various media reports. Thousands have died of starvation; millions have been displaced from their homes; and more than 2 million children are at the risk of starvation and malnutrition as the worst humanitarian disaster hits the Horn of Africa country.  Further, militant group Al-Shabab does not allow any international aid group to operate in the region without seeking its permission.

Since 1991, Somalia has been mired in conflict. Al-Qaeda-backed militant groups have been attempting to topple the weak UN- backed government in Somalia. Earlier, in early July, Al-Shabab had intimated its willingness to accept aid groups that were previously banned; however, it has changed its stance, warning that Western and "Christian” aid groups, such as the World Food Program are not welcome in the country. The militant group's denial to receive assistance from these aid groups threatens millions of Somalis, who are in need for immediate assistance — most of whom are starving and have been forced to tread treacherous miles to seek refuge in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya.

According to UN statistics, more than 170,000 Somalis have escaped to neighboring countries, with an average of 1,300 arriving in Kenya and 1,700 in Ethiopia every day. This has further dampened the refugee crisis in these countries struggling with drought and famine. Even the Somali capital of Mogadishu is also flooded with refugees.

Their journey has not been less treacherous, with many of them dying due to starvation, hunger, and famine in their search for safer havens. Those who have survived have seen their dear ones dying due to hunger and emaciation.  

On the other hand, the United Nations has once again appealed for more financial assistance worth half-billion dollars to deal with the deepening drought and famine crisis in the Horn of Africa. As the worst drought and famine in 20 years has hit Somalia, over 1.5 million Somalis have been stranded in the country without food, water, medicine, clothing, or even shelter, as food prices have skyrocketed and essential commodities are inadequate to meet their needs. The worst affected in Somalia is the nomadic community, which has lost livestock and animals for the want of water – their only source of livelihood.

Two consecutive seasons of failed rains have worsened the situation in Somalia, making it worst for the hapless Somalis, who have endured two decades of civil war. To make matters worse, Al-Shabab, the militant group that controls the region, has heavily taxed ordinary people on essential commodities. In fact, the militant group rules out famine in the country, rejecting the UN argument that millions of ordinary Somalis are starving.

Josette Sheeran, the WFP executive director, said in Nairobi that the severe famine and drought crisis has forced Somalis to tread “roads of death” so as to reach refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. She fears that the Horn of Africa could “lose a generation” to the humanitarian crisis.

Since 2008, the WFP has lost 14 aid workers in Somalia, which is "the riskiest environment” in which the UN body has to operate in the world. According to WFP estimates, over 11.3 million are in need for immediate assistance across the famine and drought-struck regions in East Africa.



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