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UN warns of severe hunger in Somalia due to drought

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Internally displaced people (IDP) gather in the Shingani District of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, to collect food rations being distributed to the families on May 15, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

A senior UN humanitarian official has warned about severe hunger in Somalia, which has been suffering from one of the worst droughts in decades.

“What was forecast to be an average rainy season in Somalia is now one of the driest on record in over 35 years,” United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said on Wednesday.

The top UN official also said that he has allocated $45 million from UN’s emergency relief fund to relief efforts, including increasing food, water and other humanitarian supplies for people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The majority of the funds — $30 million of them — will be allocated to Somalia, where 2.2 million people are expected to face a serious food crisis by September — a 40 percent increase from January.  Some $10 million is for Ethiopia and $5 million goes to Kenya.

“I’m particularly worried about Somalia, where by the end of the year, we think there could be 5.4 million people in dire straits, 2.2 million of whom could be in a really acute situation,” Loscock said in a statement announcing the emergency allocation, one of the biggest ever made from the fund.

A newly arrived woman fleeing from the drought affected areas in the Lower Shabelle Region cooks for her family at al-Adala Internally displaced people (IDP) Camp just outside of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on May 15, 2019.  (Photo by AFP)

“I don’t think the world wants to tolerate another famine in Somalia,” Lowcock said. “Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases.”

“Aid agencies in Somalia are also overstretched and grappling with a severe lack of funding,” he added.

Severe droughts complicated by conflict have caused famines in Somalia in many decades. The most recent were the 2010-12 famine, a food crisis in 2014 and a near famine in 2016-17.

On February 27, 2017, the World Health Organization cautioned against the recurrence of a famine that starved 260,000 people to death across the country in 2011.

The emerging famine forced thousands of people from across the country to stream into the capital, Mogadishu, in search of food, flooding local and international aid agencies.

In addition, the drought led to a spread of acute, watery diarrhea, cholera and measles across various regions of the country.

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