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U.N. Declares Famine In Somalia

The United Nations has officially declared famine in parts of Southern Somalia, specifically Bakool and Lower Shabelle. Nearly half of the population – about 3.7 million people – are in urgent need of roughly $300 million in aid in the next two months, with another estimated 10 million people at risk in the Horn of Africa. In the last year alone food prices have increased by 270 percent.

Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said:

“Somalia is facing its worst food security crisis in the last 20 years. This desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives … it’s likely that conditions will deteriorate further in six months.”

“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 disease outbreaks. 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 Somalis in desperate need.”

The U.N. declares famine when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 percent and when more 2 people per 10,000 die every day. In the most-affected parts of Somalia, the child malnutrition rate has reached 55 percent and 6 children per 10,000 under the age of 5 are dying every day. Tens of thousands of Somalis have already fled to neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya.

The U.S. has pledged $28 million in emergency funding but their humanitarian contributions in Somalia fell from $237 million in 2008 to $29 million last year. Relief agency Oxfam says $1 billion is desperately needed in famine relief.

Since being recognized as a failed state, years of civil conflict have plagued Somalia. The situation has been further complicated by the blame game, with fingers being pointed at the wilful neglect of several Western governments and the al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group that controls the Southern region, for hindering humanitarian efforts in affected areas. 

Newly-appointed Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Ali has called for more support from the international community. 

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