Children die in Somalia as food disaster worsens
- Famine averted for now, but crisis worsening – IPC
- “Children are dying now” – UNICEF
- The UN funding appeal faces a $1 billion shortfall
MOGADISHU, Dec 13 (Reuters) – More than 200,000 Somalis are suffering from catastrophic food shortages and many are dying of starvation, with that number set to rise to more than 700,000 next year, according to an analysis by a coalition of U.N. and humanitarian agencies. groups.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which sets the global standard for determining the severity of food crises, said its most acute level, “IPC phase 5 famine,” had been temporarily averted, but things were getting worse.
“They are keeping hunger out the door, but no one knows for how much longer,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA).
“There is no doubt that people are dying of hunger, but I cannot say a number,” he told a briefing in Geneva after the release of the latest IPC analysis on Somalia.
A two-year drought has destroyed crops and livestock in Horn of Africa countries, while food import prices have risen due to the war in Ukraine.
In Somalia, where 3 million people have been driven from their homes by conflict or drought, the crisis is compounded by a long-running Islamist insurgency that has blocked humanitarian access to some areas.
The IPC previously warned that areas of Somalia were at risk of reaching famine levels, but the response of humanitarian organizations and local communities prevented this from happening.
“However, the underlying crisis has not improved, and even more dire outcomes have only been temporarily averted. Prolonged extreme conditions have led to massive population displacement and excessive cumulative deaths,” the statement said.
The last famine in Somalia in 2011 killed a quarter of a million people, half of them before the famine was officially declared.
Fearing a similar or even worse outcome this time, aid leaders were quick to say the situation was already catastrophic for many Somalis.
“I sat with women and children who showed me mounds next to their tents in a refugee camp where they buried their two- and three-year-old children,” James Elder, spokesman for the UN children’s charity UNICEF, told a Geneva briefing.
“While announcing the famine remains important because the world must have moved past that, we also know that children are dying now.”
The IPC Acute Food Insecurity Scale has a complex set of technical criteria by which to measure the severity of crises. His phase 5 has two levels, Disaster and Famine.
In Somalia, the analysis found that 214,000 people were classified as Disaster and this number is expected to rise to 727,000 from April 2023 as humanitarian funding has fallen.
The disaster is summarized on the IPC website as a situation where starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical levels of acute malnutrition are evident.
It said famine was expected from April onwards among the agro-pastoral population in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts, in central Somalia, and among the displaced population in Baidoa city and the capital Mogadishu.
IPC figures show 5.6 million Somalis are classified as in crisis or worse (stage 3 or higher) and this number will rise from April to 8.3 million – about half the country’s population.
OCHA is calling for $2.3 billion to respond to the crisis in Somalia, of which it has so far received $1.3 billion, or 55.2 percent.
David Miliband, head of the humanitarian group at the International Rescue Committee, said the underfunding of the appeal showed the world was not accepting it as an urgent moment.
“Now is the time for action in Somalia,” he told Reuters in an interview, adding that what happened in 2011 should serve as a warning. “Stop waiting for the famine declaration,” he said.
Reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu, Bhargav Acharya and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg and Sophia Christensen in Dakar and Emma Farge in Geneva; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by James Macharia Chege and Ed Osmond
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