5 Sep 2011

Somalia famine spreads threatening 750,000

The UN reveals famine has spread to three quarters of Somalia, threatening 750,000 people with imminent starvation. Islamic Relief in the UK tells Channel 4 News the situation is now “catastrophic”.

Six out of eight regions of Somalia are in the grip of famine, according to the United Nations (UN). Over half the population are now unable to meet their food needs.

Hundreds of people are dying each day and at least half of them are children, the UN’s Grainne Moloney said, adding that she expected the remaining regions of southern Somalia to slip into famine by the end of the year. The Bay region is the latest region to be declared a famine zone.

One of the groups working on the ground is Islamic Relief.

UK Director Jehangir Malik told Channel 4 News: “The situation on the ground is absolutely catastrophic.

“What we feared is what’a happening at this moment in time.

“People are dying at an alarming rate. It is a race against time.”

Aid agencies are only able to get food aid to a million of those in need because the al-Qaeda affiliated al Shabaab rebel group, which controls much of the south, will not allow food shipments in.

“The rate of malnutrition (among children) in Bay region is 58 per cent. This is a record rate of acute malnutrition,” said Moloney, the chief technical adviser for the UN Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.

The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in decades, affecting parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda.

The Disasters Emergency Committee told Channel 4 News last week that just over a quarter of the money it has raised towards the Horn of Africa appeal is able to go to Somalia.

The head of Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said that this is “the worst period in Somalia’s recent history” and that even when money and food arrives in the country “almost none” is actually getting to the people who need it.

Dr Unni Karkunakara told Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Rugman: “Right now all of the aid that is being delivered is around the fringes of the problem.

“There’s a huge hole in the middle where aid is not getting to.”