Aid staves off Somalia famine for now: UN
Humanitarian aid and support from local communities have helped avert a dreaded famine declaration in Somalia in 2022, but the situation remains “catastrophic,” the UN said on Tuesday.
The United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said the latest assessment found that, technically, Somalia was not yet in the grip of full-blown famine.
The report “does not lead to a declaration of famine at this point, in large part thanks to the response of humanitarian organizations and local communities,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.
But, he warned, that “does not mean that people are not experiencing catastrophic food shortages.”
“They have kept famine outside the door, but nobody knows for how much longer,” he said.
“The underlying crisis has not improved.” The US announced in response that it was contributing another $411 million in emergency food and other relief to Somalia, bringing its contribution in 2022 to $1.3 billion.
“The warnings of the Famine Review Committee serve not as a stamp of inevitability, but as an alarm bell alerting us to our last lingering opportunities to avoid catastrophe,” said Samantha Power, administrator of the US Agency for International Development.
Somalia has been wracked by decades of civil war, political violence and an Islamist insurgency.
Millions of people are at risk of starvation across the wider Horn of Africa, in the grip of the worst drought in four decades after five consecutive failed rainy seasons wiped out livestock and crops. If assistance is not scaled up, Laerke warned, “famine is expected to occur between April and June 2023 in southern Somalia,” including in the capital.
Agro pastoral populations in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts, and displaced people in Baidoa town and in Mogadishu itself were most at risk, he said. The report indicated surging numbers of people at the highest level on the UN’s five-scale food insecurity classification, known as IPC, which means they have dangerously little access to food and could face starvation.
When a large enough portion of a population is estimated to be at IPC level 5, a famine is declared.