The United Nations declares a famine in southern Somalia

United Nations officials have declared famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle of southern Somalia amid drought and unending conflict leaving half of the Somali population in need of urgent aid assistance. FSRN’s Mohammed Yusuf reports.

The Famine is affecting nearly 3 million people in two al shabab strong hold 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.

Mark Bowden is the UN’S Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia. He warns the rest of Somalia is also close to famine and conditions could deteriorate in the coming months.

“Famine is declared when acute malnutrition rate among children exceed 30%, more than four children under five per 10,000 die per day and there is acute death rate of two per 10,000 per day. More importantly people are not able to access food or rather basic necessities.”

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 over-crowded 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 Dagahley camp in Dadaab, is forty year old Fatuma Jamaa, a mother of seven children who arrived here five days ago with fifty other families from Sakow Middle Juba. She says they walked for more than a week AND since they arrived they have received nothing.

“We are fifty 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.”

The most vulnerable in the camps are children, often they die a day or so after arriving at the camps. In the malnutrition centre of Hagardera camp Dadaab, twenty three 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 twenty days ago.

“The day we arrived at the camp he was vaccinated. But after the vaccination he started vomiting and having diarrhoea for the last twenty days he has been sick and he is also malnourished.”

Along the Kenya- Somalia border three hundred families have camped in the cold without any assistance. Thirty five year old Nadhifa Hassan fled from THE coastal city Kismayu in lower Juba. She says many villages in Somalia are empty.

“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.”

Earlier this month humanitarian aid agencies welcomed al shabab’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.

“Clearly addressing the food needs of the population is critical at the heart of this, I should also say that its critical this time we increase assistance to the population that are already moving and we would be working cross border in Somalia to provide additional assistance of those people who are on the move.”

The UN says Somalia is 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.

“This desperate situation requires urgent action to save life, humanitarian operation in Somalia are difficult but they are not impossible, more than ever Somali people need and deserve full attention at this time of crisis we must all make exceptional efforts to support Somalis.”

Inside Somalia, nearly 1.5 million people are internally displaced. And nearly 800,000 have fled to neighbouring countries.

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