Somalia: Famine is over, but progress is fragile, warns Valerie Amos

6 Feb 2012

Families queue for food at a feeding point in BadBado camp for internally displaced people in Mogadishu, Somalia. Credit: Kate Holt/IRIN
At least 2.3 million people still need aid to survive

Famine conditions are no longer present in Somalia, but the situation remains critical for at least 2.3 million people, the UN’s humanitarian aid chief has warned.

“We must not forget that the progress made is fragile. Without continued and generous support from the international community, these gains could be reversed,” said Valerie Amos, Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC).

“We cannot allow humanitarian efforts to be interrupted, and I urge all involved to minimize the impact of armed conflict on ordinary people.”

A new report released last week by the UN and the United States Government said the famine was over in Somalia.

It also said that the number of people who needed life-saving aid had dropped from 4 million to 2.3 million (including 1.7 million people in the south), due to an exceptional harvest and a massive aid operation.

However, recently harvested food stocks could run low by May 2012.

“While continuing to provide life-saving help, we also need to focus on building up people's ability to cope better with future droughts and food crises. This includes making sure people have seeds and tools before the next planting season,” said Ms. Amos.

A combination of severe drought and conflict led to famine in six areas of Somalia last year, causing tens of thousands of deaths.

Following the famine declaration in July, and despite widespread insecurity, aid agencies ramped up their response and distributed food to 2.6 million people in October. They also reached nearly half a million malnourished children with nutritional supplements and treatment.   

“We have shown that humanitarian organizations in Somalia can achieve results even in the most challenging of environments,” said Ms. Amos. “We all must keep our attention firmly focused on Somalia and ensure that we do not fail the most vulnerable.”

More >> ERC Key Messages >> Latest Somalia Humanitarian Situation Report