Africa 7.3.2017 08:54 am

Somali famine looms as drought deepens

A dry river bed is pictured at the Vaal Dam, 2 November 2016, in Oranjeville, Free State. A severe drought has seen the Vaal dam water level drop to below 26 percent leading to water restrictions across the country. Picture: Alaister Russell

A dry river bed is pictured at the Vaal Dam, 2 November 2016, in Oranjeville, Free State. A severe drought has seen the Vaal dam water level drop to below 26 percent leading to water restrictions across the country. Picture: Alaister Russell

Moreover, water prices are spiralling and Somalis are moving in growing numbers in search of food and water.

As a severe drought deepens in Somalia, the risk of famine is looming in the long-troubled country, with about half the population in need of some form of assistance, according to an assessment by United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners.

The situation has become “significantly worse in the last six months,” explained Joseph Contreras, the spokesperson for the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) on Monday.

“Currently, approximately 6.2 million Somalis are in need of humanitarian assistance, of that number, three million are in need or urgent life saving measures. This is a significant step up from the 1.1 million Somalis that were in such circumstances, such need for life saving measures in September,” he said.

In addition, the UN reports that nearly 950,000 children under the age of five will be acutely malnourished this year, with 185,000 of that number at risk of death without immediate medical treatment.

Citing “worrying similarities” to the 2011 famine in Somalia, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) this past Friday launched a $24.6 million appeal the more than one million Somalis most affected by the drought.

“We named this (2017) drought ‘Odi Kawayn,’ which is Somali for ‘something bigger than the elders,’” drought victim Halima told the agency, explaining that none of the elders has ever seen a drought as severe as this one. A massive increase in aid is urgently needed to avert a famine.

IOM reports that wages are collapsing, local food prices are rising, animal deaths are increasing, and malnutrition rates are starting to rise.

Moreover, water prices are spiralling and Somalis are moving in growing numbers in search of food and water.

Without assistance, many people face malnutrition, significantly increased risk of disease, loss of livelihoods and even death.

Meanwhile today, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, visited the Zone K Internal Displacement Camp (IDP) Settlement located in the Hodan district of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

“We understand their hunger, their thirst and their need to look after their children,” said O’Brien, noting that by seeing it for himself, “we can make this story known to a much bigger world and try to help”.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which O’Brien heads up, Zone K first became an IDP settlement in 2011, when a large number of drought affected people from Lower Shabelle, Bay and Bakool regions settled.

 

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