A massive scale-up of humanitarian efforts has led to significant food aid flows into local markets to ease Somalia’s famine conditions, but new fighting between military and the militant Al Shabab group continues posing serious risk to supply aid.
East Africa’s drought, the worst it has seen in 60 years, continues its grip on the region, but humanitarian efforts have helped some of the region’s stricken people, easing acute malnutrition and mortality rates, and the UN warns famine levels remain high in many regions, with human deaths continuing and food security levels staying low.
The increased humanitarian efforts in Somalia during September and October have helped ease pressures in three of six famine regions - Bakool, Bay, and Lower Shabelle. The situation, however, remains critical and another quarter million people are predicted to die there.
Three other regions - Afgoye, Middle Shabelle, and Mogadishu’s immense refugee camps - will continue facing famine conditions at least through the end of the year. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a statement (pdf) saying progress is fragile and the area will “continue to face a severe humanitarian emergency.”
A joint statement by the UN’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit - Somalia (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) says a likely scenario shows famine will persist until the January/February Deyr (minor rain season from October-December) harvests. The famine’s persistence is compounded by a combination of high food prices, limited crop production in 2011, and Al-Shabab’s continued restrictions on accessibility to some of the region’s hardest hit areas.
The UN’s FSNAU notes
any significant interruption to humanitarian assistance or trade would result in a return to Famine.
Early forecasts for the 2012 Gu season (rainy season from April-June) suggest below-average rainfall is likely, due to a re-emerging La Niña weather pattern. If this bears out, the emergency in Somalia could persist throughout 2012.
Adding to the region’s woes, there has been a cholera outbreak in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, located in neighboring Kenya and home to some 400,000 people, mostly Somalis. Earlier this week, reports showed 60 cases of cholera and one death as a result.
“Rains and flooding had affected the trucking of water to parts of the camps, and we fear some refugees resorted to using unsafe water from flooded areas,” the UNHRC said in a statement, according to the BBC.
During the last two decades, almost half a million Somalis have arrived at Dadaab, seeking shelter and assistance. Somalia has not had a functioning government during that time, instead ruled by violence between various militias.
Last month, two aid workers at Dadaab were kidnapped. Kenya blames Al-Shabab for the abductions, but the militant group denies the accusation.