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Somalia at tipping point, say agencies

03 February 2017


Tipping point: a Somalian woman and her children pour water on crops. Aid agencies have warned that reduced rains this spring could cause a famine

Tipping point: a Somalian woman and her children pour water on crops. Aid agencies have warned that reduced rains this spring could cause a famine

THE poor rainfalls that are forecast in Somalia in the spring could be the “tipping point to famine”, international agencies have warned.

An early warning of famine has been issued by the Somalian Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, based in the United States. It says that reduced rains last year meant that 40 per cent less rain fell in some areas, leading to poor harvests and rising food prices. Some river levels in Somalia are nearly 60 per cent down on where they should be for this time of year.

The next rainy season, from April to June, is already forecast to show further depressed rainfall. The Christian charity World Vision said that if the rains are lower than needed, “it could be the tipping point to famine”.

Famine was last declared in parts of Somalia in 2011, when 260,000 people died.

World Vision said that hundreds of thousands of children in Somalia, and in the wider Horn of Africa region, are already facing a health and nutrition crisis caused by the drought. Tuberculosis is on the rise: more than 20 per cent of children under 14 have contracted the disease, the Somalia national director for World Vision, Simon Nyabwengi, said. “The crisis in Somalia risks sliding into yet another famine unless we act urgently and swiftly.

“World Vision is appealing for £15.1 million to respond to the needs of the 530,000 most severely drought affected people this year. We are most concerned by indications that the drought and food shortages are exacerbating the levels of tuberculosis-prevalence rates, as poor nutrition and access to clean water is affecting communities on a wide scale. Over 20 per cent of all children under the age of 14 are contracting TB, according to our experts.”

The widespread drought is also affecting Kenya and Ethiopia: 15 million people across the region are estimated to be affected.

Somalia is the worst affected, as the country has not recovered completely from the famine in 2011, owing to widespread poverty and continued conflict with the Islamist militants al-Shabab, which has displaced nearly a million people from their homes.

Ethiopia nearing crisis point, says UN. The UN has warned that the drought in neighbouring Ethiopia is “on the brink” of causing a major humanitarian crisis, and called for international assistance.

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said that, despite efforts to build resilience by the Ethiopian government, the magnitude and scale of the drought meant that the country could not cope alone. He called for the world to show “solidarity” with Ethiopia, which is the largest African refugee-hosting country.

Ethiopia was a “pillar of stability” in the region, he said, and the international community could not risk allowing drought to bring about instability, social unrest, or conflict, as this would have consequences “not only in relation to the conflicts in the area, but in connection to displacements of populations, in a world that is so little inclined to receive more migrants, and to global terrorism that is now a threat everywhere”.

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