For months now Somalia, particularly the southern part of the country, has been ravaged by the worst famine since the early 1990s. Tens of thousands of people have died. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), over 120,000 people fled into neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya in June and July alone. Within Somalia, a further 1.5 million people are moving from rural areas into the country’s urban centres to seek food and refuge. While the provision of aid to the starving people in refugee camps in neighbouring countries and even in Somalia has been improving, estimates by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) indicate that international assistance will be needed until at least December 2011 to overcome the humanitarian crisis.
Decades of armed conflict have made Somalia highly vulnerable to rising food prices and the negative impacts of climate change. Experts had warned of an impending food scarcity in the Horn of Africa several months ago. The drought conditions prevailing for the last two years may have served to trigger the current crisis, but man-made factors have exacerbated its magnitude. The ongoing conflict has fomented violence and instability and also hindered Somalia's economic recovery. At the same time, poverty and the precarious food situation are exacerbating the spiral of violence, as underlined in the “Five Year Strategy in Somalia 2011-2015,” published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The refusal of the radical Islamic al-Shabab militia to allow foreign aid into the country during the present crisis only worsened the suffering of the Somalis. Increased food prices on the world market also made it more difficult to procure food for the starving population.
At a donor conference hosted by the African Union in Addis Ababa on 25 August, over 350 million US dollars were pledged for aid operations in the Horn of Africa. The international community was also called upon to support medium- and long-term climate adaptation measures in the region to mitigate the impact of global warming on food security. (Kerstin Fritzsche)
The FAO publication “5 Year Strategy and Plan of Action” for Somalia is available at http://faosomalia.org/uploads/FAO%20Somalia%205-year%20strategy.pdf
Regular Food Security Updates on Somalia by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) can be accessed at: http://www.fews.net/Pages/country.aspx?gb=so&l=en
Visit the UN OCHA website for further information on the situation in Somalia: http://ochaonline.un.org/Default.aspx?alias=ochaonline.un.org/somalia
Published in: ECC-Newsletter, 4/2011