Half of Somalia’s population could go hungry, UN warns

25 August 2009 – Half of Somalia’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance, according to a new United Nations report which finds that the conflict engulfing the Horn of Africa nation is pushing increasing numbers of people into hunger.The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO/FSNAU) says that the crisis in Somalia is both widespread and severe, with some 3.76 people in need of humanitarian aid, up from 3.17 million in January.

“This signals a serious deterioration in the emergency food security and nutrition situation from earlier this year,” according to Cindy Holleman, Chief Technical Advisor of the Unit.

What moral justification is there for instilling fear and terror in the population?

She adds that perhaps more worrying is that the increased fighting is occurring in the same areas that are now recording the greatest problems of food access and malnutrition and which are largely inaccessible to aid workers.

Emergency nutrition levels in several parts of the country have deteriorated further since January, with one in five children, up from one in six earlier this year, now acutely malnourished and one in 20 severely malnourished, among the highest rates in the world.

In the whole of Somalia, nearly 300,000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, of whom 70,000 are severely malnourished and are at an increased risk of death without appropriate specialist care.

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has skyrocketed since the start of the year, surging 40 per cent to 1.42 million people, and the conflict’s epicentre in central and southern Somalia has also faced droughts due to several consecutive seasons without adequate rainfall.

With livestock having been decimated, the new report notes that in these areas, up to 75 per cent of the population can be characterized as living in a humanitarian emergency.

In a related development, the top UN envoy to Somalia called, on the occasion of the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, for an end to armed violence in the country.

In a letter to the Somalia diaspora, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that fighting continues to rage even though there are no more Ethiopian troops in the capital, Mogadishu.

“What reason is there now to continue fighting unless it is to capitalize on the insecurity for personal gain?” he asked. “What moral justification is there for instilling fear and terror in the population?”

The time has come, the envoy said, to “end this long conflict at home, that of Somalis fighting Somalis,” stressing the need to seize the opportunity to bolster the country’s fledgling Government.

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