UN warns famine could spread in Somalia without international aid

August 2nd, 2011 - 6:24 pm ICT by BNO News  

UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) — The United Nations (UN) has warned that the famine in Somalia could spread further if the international community does not provide the funds required to respond to the hunger crisis.

Last month, the UN declared a famine in the two regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle in southern Somalia. The hunger crisis, due to the worst drought in decades, has already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, the majority of them children.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, Valerie Amos, said that unless the international community gives a massive response, the famine will spread to five or six more regions.

“Tens of thousands of Somalis have already died and hundreds of thousands face starvation,” Amos said.

The UN official said the drought in the Horn of Africa, which has also affected large areas of Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, is the worst in 60 years and has left an estimated 12.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

Amos said that early warning systems had predicted the drought last year, when humanitarian agencies appealed for $1.6 billion dollars. “As of mid-year, around half of that money had been raised, and as of last week donors had committed more than $1 billion,” said Amos.

However, it is not enough. $1.4 billion is needed immediately to enable relief organizations to scale up their response to the hunger crisis in the region. Amos urged traditional donors, who have already contributed, to provide additional resources, while appealing to corporations, foundations and private individuals to assist as well.

The UN humanitarian chief said longer-term measures to make drought-prone areas of the Horn of Africa more resilient are already being implemented, citing Ethiopia’s social welfare scheme and Kenya’s employment plan that promotes natural resource management in arid and semi-arid areas.

Amos also urged parties to Somalia’s conflict to let aid workers deliver assistance to those in need without interference. She said that the UN will support a plan by the African Union to hold a funding conference for the Horn of African hunger crisis later this month.

According to the UN, the drought in the Eastern Horn of Africa is expected to continue until early 2012, and the number of people in acute livelihood crisis is expected to increase from 8.8 million in the coming months.

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