UN Declares Famine in Southern Somalia
FSRN: Drought and ongoing conflict have left half of the Somali population in need of urgent assistance
DANNY WOOD, FREE SPEECH RADIO NEWS: United Nations officials have declared a famine in southern Somalia. Drought and ongoing conflict have left half of the Somali population in need of urgent assistance. FSRN’s Mohammed Yusef reports.
MOHAMMED YUSEF, FREE SPEECH RADIO NEWS: The famine is affecting nearly 3 million people in two al-Shabaab strongholds regions in the south of the country. Four consecutive years of drought combined with two decades of civil war has exacerbated the situation. Tens of thousands of Somalis have died in the last few months alone, most of them children. Matt Bowden is the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. He warns the rest of Somalia’s also close to famine, and condition could deteriorate in the coming months.
MATT BOWDEN, UNDP HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS COORDINATOR: Famine is declared when acute malnutrition rates amongst children exceed 30 percent. More than four children under five per 10,000 died per day, and there’s a crude death rate of two per 10,000 per day. But more importantly, people are not able to access food or other basic necessities.
YUSEF: As the situation worsens in Somalia, civilians trek vast distances across land where it no longer seems to rain. They are headed to the Dadaab Refugee Camp, the most overcrowded in the world, to look for food, water, and medical supplies. But the Dadaab Refugee Camp is overwhelmed, and aid workers are struggling to cope. UN officials say they give basic food rations to everyone who comes, but some refugees complain they can wait for days or even weeks without a proper food supply. Outside Dagahaley Camp in Dadaab is 40 year old Fatima Jama, a mother of seven children who arrived here five days ago with 50 other families from Sakow, Middle Juba. She says they walked for more than a week, and since they arrived, they have received nothing.
FATIMA JAMA, REFUGEE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): We are 50 families who have escaped drought. Our biggest problem is we don’t have a place to sleep. We lost our livestock. We have nothing. We really need anything that can sustain us.
YUSEF: The most vulnerable in the camps are children. Often they die a day or so after arriving at the camps. In the malnutrition center of Hagadera Camp, Dadaab, 23 year old Abshiro Ali is holding her severely malnourished six-month-old baby. She says her son has been sick since they arrived at the camp 20 days ago.
ABSHIRO ALI, REFUGEE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): The day we arrived at camp, he was vaccinated. But after the vaccination, he started vomiting and having diarrhea. For the last 20 days he has been sick, and he’s also malnourished.
YUSEF: Along Kenya-Somalia border, 300 families have come in the cold without any assistance. Thirty-five year old Nadhifa Hassan fled from the coastal city Kismayo in Lower Juba. She says many villages in Somalia are empty.
NADHIFA HASSAN, REFUGEE (VOICEOVER TRANSL.): The village we migrated to, the residents have also migrated. They are not there. You will see few of them around. People are leaving. They are going to camps. We will also go unless we get urgent help. People are dying of hunger. Children are malnourished, and they are prone to sickness and drought. We want people to come and help us urgently.
YUSEF: Earlier this month, humanitarian aid agencies welcomed al-Shabaab’s request that they resume operations in areas under their control. Bowden says humanitarian aid workers will be increasing health, water, sanitation needs in the camps and distribute food to the moving population.
BOWDEN: Clearly, addressing the food needs of the population is critical at the heart of this. I should also say that it’s critical at this time that we increase assistance to the populations that are already moving. And we will be working cross-border in Somalia to provide additional assistance to those people who are on the move.
YUSEF: UN says Somalia’s facing its worst food security crisis in two decades. Bowden says in some parts of Somalia half of all children under five are malnourished and one in three children have suffered from severe food shortages. He called for international assistance.
BOWDEN: This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives. Humanitarian operations in Somalia are difficult, but they are not impossible. More than ever, Somali people need and deserve our full attention. At this time of crisis, we must all make exceptional efforts to support Somalis.
YUSEF: Inside Somalia, nearly 1.5 million are internally displaced, and nearly 800,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Mohammed Yusef, FSRN, Dadaab, northeastern Kenya.
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