Horn of Africa: 100 days after famine declaration, rains add to Somalia’s struggle

10 November, 2011
SDRO emergency water voucher project in Mudug region, funded by the CHF, April 2011. Credit: SDRO
SDRO emergency water voucher project in Mudug region, funded by the CHF, April 2011. Credit: SDRO

One hundred days after famine was declared in parts of southern Somalia, humanitarian agencies have reached more than half of the four million people who urgently need help.

But after months of drought, agencies are now struggling to tackle a rise in cholera and other water-borne diseases due to seasonal rains, which have flooded parts of the country. The rains are also affecting attempts to reach those most in need in the country’s south.

“In only three months, we have managed to triple the number of people receiving food aid to 2.2 million, and reach over half a million more people with clean water,” said Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

“This is a remarkable achievement. Unfortunately, it does not mean that all of those in need are being reached. Hundreds of people, mainly children, are still dying every day and we need to do even more to stop this trend.”

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is coordinating life-saving aid by dozens of agencies  to ensure that humanitarian projects target those most in need, in areas where aid groups can operate.

OCHA Somalia is also leading humanitarian agencies’ efforts to gain access to new areas of southern Somalia, previously cut off by insecurity and armed opposition. Due to improved security conditions, OCHA and partner agencies have been able to access parts of Gedo, Bakool and Lower Shabelle and provide humanitarian assistance in these newly-reachable areas.

“Tens of thousands of people are now receiving basic assistance, including shelter, livelihood support and water nutrition and food. We need to push even harder to reach all people in need,” said Kiki Gbeho, the Head of OCHA Somalia.

According to the latest statistics, four million Somalis, or 53 percent of the country’s population, remain in crisis – that is, are facing problems such as starvation or at the risk of disease. Three million of those are in the south.

The increasing humanitarian response has been made possible by the generosity of international donors, who have given almost US$ 750 million since 20 July, when famine was declared.

However, escalating violence in parts of the south is hampering aid efforts and the majority of the people living in areas in crisis, primarily in the country’s south and central regions, still cannot access food.

An estimated 750,000 people are at risk of dying in the coming months and humanitarian agencies need to reach them to save their lives.

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