Parts of south Somalia suffering from famine, says UN

Parts of southern Somalia are suffering from famine, a UN official said today, and tens of thousands of Somalis have already died in the worst hunger emergency in a generation.

The Horn of Africa is suffering a devastating drought compounded by war, neglect and spiraling prices. Some areas in the region have not had such a low rainfall in 60 years, aid group Oxfam said.



The UN needs $300 million (£186 million) in the next two months, said Mark Bowden, the UN's top official in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia. The last time conditions were this bad was in 1992, when hundreds of thousands of Somalis starved to death. That famine prompted intervention by an international peacekeeping force, but it eventually pulled out after two American Black Hawk helicopters were shot down in 1993.



The southern Somali regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions are suffering from famine, Bowden said. Across East Africa, more than 10 million people need aid.



"Somalia is facing its worst food security crisis in the last 20 years," Bowden said. "This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives."



Famine is officially defined as when two adults or four children per 10,000 people die of hunger each day and a third of children are acutely malnourished. In some areas of Somalia, six people are dying a day and more than half of children are acutely malnourished, Bowden said. Prices of staple foods have increased 270 percent over the last year.



"If we don't act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious diseases," Bowden said. "We still do not have all the resources for food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalia."



He said it was unlikely there would be any respite from the drought until the end of the year.



The drought has killed up to 90 percent of livestock in some regions, Oxfam said. But poor governance is also to blame.



Most of Somalia has been wracked by civil war since its last government collapsed in 1990. Islamist rebels currently hold most of southern Somalia. They banned most aid agencies from working there two years ago but rescinded the ban earlier this month.



The weak, UN-backed Somali government regularly comes last in the world in the annual corruption rating by watchdog Transparency International, but Bowden said it had welcomed the UN's efforts and was working closely with aid groups.



Neighboring Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya have also been badly affected, and Eritrea is also believed to be hard hit, though its repressive government does not release figures. Oxfam says the drought has been exacerbated by poor governance and neglect, war in Somalia and land policies that restrict grazing land for nomadic communities.



Oxfam criticized those policies in a report released Wednesday, but also said several rich European countries should do more to provide emergency aid. The aid agency says there is a $800 million shortfall in funds. They say $1 billion is needed to fund relief efforts through January.



Oxfam Regional Director Fran Equiza released a statement Wednesday saying it was "morally indefensible" that countries have only pledged $200 million in addition to long-running programs.



On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US will give another $28 million, on top of the $431 million in assistance it has given to the Horn of Africa this year.



Britain has pledged $145 million in the past two weeks — about 15 percent of what is needed — and the European Union pledged around $8 million, with more expected in coming days. Spain has promised nearly $10 million and Germany around $8.5 million but Oxfam said France has so far not pledged any more money and Denmark and Italy have said no significant new sums are available.



"There is no time to waste if we are to avoid massive loss of life," Equiza said in a statement. "We must not stand by and watch this tragedy unfold before our eyes. The world has been slow to recognize the severity of this crisis, but there is no longer any excuse for inaction."



Oxfam said UN humanitarian appeals for $1.87 billion for the region this year are only 45 percent funded, leaving a gap of over $1 billion — $332 million for the UN appeal for Kenya, $296 million for the UN appeal for Somalia, and $398 million for the government-run appeal in Ethiopia.



Some donors, like the US, have expressed fears that aid might be diverted by Islamist groups. But Bowden said the UN had done its utmost to minimize the risks that aid might be diverted. He added that the UN was also approaching Arab nations like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for donations.

AP

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific