UN declares famine in two regions of Somalia

Somali women displaced by severe drought conditions queue to get food. REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR, courtesy Trust.org - AlertNet.

Today, the UN declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia: southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle. 

The UN has certain requirements to declare a famine
• More than 30 percent of children must be suffering from acute malnutrition;
• Two adults or four children must be dying of hunger each day for every group of 10,000 people; and
• The population must have access to far below 2,100 kilocalories of food per day.

Traditionally, a famine is declared by a country’s government. However, due to the lack of a central Somali government, the UN stepped in and made the declaration today. The UN has said that over the next two months, $300 million will be needed.

Complicating the situation, aid workers are in heightened danger due to the conflict in the country. The UN and U.S. have urged the armed groups to guarantee the safety of aid agencies and their staffs. The conflict has exacerbated the effect of consecutive droughts in the region, pushing people further into hunger and malnutrition.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), between the humanitarian crisis across the region and the current inadequate international response, it is expected that famine will spread through the south of Somalia over the next two months. Across the country, nearly half the population is in crisis.  

Children are among the most at-risk during a famine—not just of hunger and malnutrition, but also for disease. According to UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden, overall malnutrition rates in Somalia are the highest in the world, and the majority of the deaths in the affected areas are children.

The United States is increasing its aid to Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti to try to alleviate the crisis. 

For a list of InterAction members responding to the crisis, or to donate to one of those members, visit our drought crisis response page. For more information, see our East Africa Crisis Resources page

Further reading:

UN declaration of famine

InterAction statement on the famine

AlertNet coverage of the crisis

Statement by the Somalia NGO Consortium

The Thousand Days partnership on ending child malnutrition