Somalia: One year after famine was declared

20 July, 2012
3.8 million people still need humanitarian aid. Credit: OCHA
3.8 million people still need humanitarian aid. Credit: OCHA

Despite the progress made since famine was declared in parts of Somalia last July, 3.8 million people still need humanitarian aid, Humanitarian Coordinator Mark Bowden said on Friday, appealing to countries to continue supporting relief efforts in the East African country.   

“Last year, we were able to halt the downward spiral into starvation for hundreds of thousands of people. Famine conditions have not been present since January,” said Mr. Bowden. “However, the humanitarian situation in Somalia remains critical with 2.51 million people in urgent need of aid and a further 1.29 million at risk of sliding back into crisis.” 
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 and despite widespread security problems, aid agencies distributed food to millions of people and treated hundreds of thousands of children for malnutrition.   
Six months after the declaration, in February 2012, the famine was declared over, mostly due to an exceptional harvest and a massive aid operation.
“The progress we have made since last year can easily slip backwards if high levels of assistance are not sustained. We need to act now to build on the gains.” Mr. Bowden said. 
“Parts of southern Somalia are already expected to deteriorate to emergency levels in coming months and the underperformance of the April-to-June Gu rains will likely result in a harvest that is smaller and later than usual.” 
Conflict and lack of access to people continue to complicate aid efforts. “Civilians have borne the brunt of conflict for 20 years. All parties must make every effort to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to people in need,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator.
So far, half of the required US$1.6 billion for humanitarian assistance has been received but aid agencies still need $576 million to address the enormous needs of the Somali people over the next six months. 
“The funds are needed to provide the most vulnerable Somalis with urgently needed assistance, such as food, clean water, sanitation facilities and medical care. These funds are also needed to build sustainable livelihoods for people who have few or no resources after years of drought and conflict, thereby increasing their resilience to future crises,” said Mr. Bowden.
In response to lessons learned from the Horn of Africa crisis in 2011, OCHA had included more early recovery and resilience-building projects in its humanitarian appeal for the region in 2012. In addition to carrying out immediate life-saving work, aid workers are also providing livelihood support, which includes distributing agricultural tools and drought-resistant seeds to farmers, and managing cash-for-work projects that enable people to buy their own food.

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