An agency responsible for monitoring the availability of food in Somalia declared a humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa country on Thursday, reporting that an extreme drought has left 1.75 million people in need of assistance. The Food Security Analysis Unit Somalia, which works with U.N., U.S. and European aid agencies, issued an advisory stating that Somalis are facing an "acute food and livelihood crisis."
"The crisis is particularly severe in the southern regions of Somalia, where an estimated 1.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance," the unit said. "Further stressing their plight, the drought is regional in nature, extending into Ethiopia and Kenya and covering large areas of the greater Somali livelihood system."
The unit said recently collected data showed that more than 50 percent of Somalia's crops have failed, making it the worst harvest in 10 years. In some areas, harvests were only a quarter of normal levels. "Depending on humanitarian response and access, the potential for outbreaks of increased conflict, and food/water supplies, FSAU further warns that there is a moderate risk of famine conditions in the coming months for the area around the Gedo region. The World Food Program has reported that 11.5 million people in East Africa will require food assistance in the coming months. The worst hit area also include Kenya, southern Ethiopia and parts of Sudan. Somalia may be the worst hit country by the drought, which has sent people who are living on the brink in the best of times. The country has been divided into warring, clan-based fiefdoms since the central government collapsed in 1991.
Numerous efforts to restore order to the country have so far failed, with a new government trying to organize itself now. Piracy off of Somalia's coast has forced the U.N. food agency to stop using cargo ships to deliver food aid, which is required by some Somalia year-round. Trucking the food through the lawless country has created numerous other problems, making delivery to those who need it difficult.
The food security unit said Thursday that in addition to the grain shortage, between 20 percent and 30 percent of the cattle in southern Somalia have died due to lack of forage or water. Malnutrition rates in some areas have reached 25 percent of the population, the report said, with rates of 15 percent considering to be an emergency.
"While Somalia is normally one of the poorest and most food insecure countries in the world, current conditions are dire and way beyond the typically resilient Somali peoples' capacity to cope with stress," said Nicholas Haan, the chief technical adviser to the unit. "The window of opportunity to avert disaster is quickly closing", reports the AP. N.U.