A senior U.N. official Wednesday warned of a state of famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle, two regions of southern Somalia severely affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa.
In a video conference from Nairobi, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, told reporters that Somalia faces the worst food crisis in 20 years. He said famine has been declared in Lower Shabelle and Bakool, approximately 400 Km from the capital Mogadishu, because malnutrition rates among children in both cities has exceeded 30 percent and people have no access to food. In certain areas of southern Somalia, malnutrition reaches 50 percent, he added.
Bowden also said deaths among children under five years old exceed 6 per 10,000 every day, especially in the south, where 2,8 out of 3,7 million Somali people live. 'It is likely the conditions will deteriorate further in the next months,' he warned.
To battle the growing famine, Bowden said about 300 million dollars are needed in the next two months. He admitted that the global financial crisis has resulted in a reduction in humanitarian assistance from developed countries.
UN agencies have already requested for 1.6 billion dollars to overcome the drought in the Horn of Africa, but they have got only half of that amount to assist an estimated of 11 million people. The UK Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, has said the response by developed countries to the crisis has been 'derisory and dangerously inadequate'.
The humanitarian efforts in Somalia have also been affected in part by the operations of al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda supporting group that is opposed to foreign aid.
On Monday the United Nations started delivering medicines, food and water to affected regions in Somalia and Ethiopia, two of the countries that have suffered from the drought, along with Kenya and Djibouti.
© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
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