Drought: Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya at risk of famine

Millions of people in Somalia are at risk of famine, with young children being the most vulnerable to worsening drought, United Nations agencies said on Tuesday, warning that the troubled nation was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Many parts of Somalia were being ravaged by an extreme months-long drought that had also taken hold of other countries in the region including Ethiopia and Kenya, destroying crops and livestock, and driving huge numbers of people from their homes.

“Somalia is facing famine conditions as poor rain and skyrocketing food prices leave almost 40 percent of Somalis on the brink,” the World Food Programme, a humanitarian agency of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said in a statement. 

“We are literally about to start taking food from the hungry to feed the starving,” WFP Somalia country director, El-Khidir Daloum, said in the statement, describing the nation as “on the cusp of a humanitarian catastrophe.”

According to the agency, six million Somalis, or 40 percent of the population are now facing extreme levels of food insecurity, according to a new report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, almost a two-fold increase since the beginning of the year.

It also said that about 1.4 million children were facing acute malnutrition, with around one-quarter facing severe acute malnutrition.

Children under the age of five were the most vulnerable, with access to food and milk scarce because of rising commodity prices and livestock issues. 

Six areas have been identified as “at risk of famine, they are at risk of going down that route of 2011 if we don’t act now”, Lara Fossi, deputy country director for WFP Somalia, said at a press conference in Geneva.

She was referring to Somalia’s devastating 2011 famine, which saw 260,000 people – half of them children under the age of six, died of hunger or hunger-related disorders.

Fossi said that there were huge surges of people moving across the…

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