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UN says famine spreads to three areas in S Somalia

08-04-2011 16:02 BJT

NAIROBI, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations has declared a famine in three more areas in drought-ravaged Somalia, bringing to five the number of regions in the Horn of Africa country where acute malnutrition and starvation have already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden said the Afgoye corridor outside Mogadishu, the capital itself, and the Middle Shabelle region are now in a state of famine.

"The latest information confirms our concerns over the increasing severity of the crisis facing Somalia, especially IDPs (internally displace persons) and the urgency of scaling up our actions," Bowden said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Wednesday night.

"The declaration of famine in Mogadishu reflects the massive influx of people into the city in the last two months and the need to redouble our efforts to improve conditions."

The announcement followed a declaration of famine in two regions of south Bakool and Lower Shabelle on July 20.

A famine can be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. They are: at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.

The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) is warning that unless there is a massive increase in the humanitarian response, the famine will rapidly spread to more areas in the south in Somalia. Somalia is currently facing the most serious food and nutrition crisis in the world in terms of both scale and severity. The need to scale up humanitarian operations to save lives is of upmost urgency.

At least 2.8 million people including 1.25 million children are in critical need of assistance in southern Somalia.

Bowden said the humanitarian community is striving to secure safe and unhindered access to provide life-saving assistance to the affected populations wherever they are.

This will mitigate the necessity by Somalis to undertake the hazardous journey into Mogadishu or to Kenya and Ethiopia.

Humanitarian agencies are working hard to address the critical situation of the displaced with the hope that the situation will not be further complicated by the conflict. The IDPs are already facing serious health and nutrition needs.

"I call on all parties to support an urgent scale up of assistance so that we can save the lives of those who most need our support at this critical moment in accordance with Humanitarian Principles," Bowden said. The spread of the famine conditions highlights the seriousness of the food crisis facing internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mogadishu.

The declaration of famine in the capital followed the massive influx of starving adults and children into the city in the past two months.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, said that the appeal for funds to respond to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa region, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti, is only 44 per cent funded, with an additional 1.4 billion U.S. dollars still required to cover unmet needs.

An estimated 12.4 million people in the entire region are in need of assistance, according to OCHA.

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