8 August 2014

Somalia: 'World Must Act Now' to Avert Repeat of Devastating Famine in Somalia - UN Expert

Photo: Mike Pflanz/IRIN
File photo.

A United Nations human rights expert today urged the international community to "act now" to avert a humanitarian disaster in Somalia, where a widening hunger crisis has sparked fears of a repeat of the 2011 famine that devastated the war-ravaged country.

"The food shortage situation in Somalia is deteriorating rapidly," warned Bahame Tom Nyanduga, a UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in the East African nation.

As it stands now, around 203,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished while about 2.9 million people need urgent life-saving support a situation which is likely to worsen.

"An ongoing conflict, lower than usual rains in the agricultural parts of the country, the hiking of food prices, and the limited access by humanitarian agencies to deliver much needed assistance in some parts of the country due to the conflict, are pushing Somalia closer and closer to an impending worrisome food insecurity and malnutrition situation," Mr. Nyanduga explained.

Indeed, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) reports that the food security situation in Somalia is expected to deteriorate in the months ahead due to reduced crop production resulting from poor seasonal rains, a surge in prices and reduced livestock production.

Somalia's Government has already declared drought in seven regions and warns that, if urgent measures are not taken there would be a repeat of the 2011 famine, when more than 250,000 people died, half of them children.

Another famine would have devastating consequences on women, children, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable people, whose survival is crucial in rebuilding Somalia. There are approximately 1.1 million IDPs in Somalia, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Mr. Nyanduga appealed to donors for more funding to avert this humanitarian catastrophe. He warned that only $270 million, equivalent to 29% of the Somalia Strategic Response Plan of $933 million requirement, had been received so far, leaving a funding gap of $663 million.

"Unfortunately, in spite of the early warning indicators, there appears to be inadequate response to a potential catastrophe, which could erode some of the gains of the Federal Government of Somalia to safeguard and guarantee the rights to life and the right to food for considerable number of Somali citizens," he said.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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