Food crisis threatens millions of lives in Somalia, UN agencies warn

22 August 2008 – More than three million Somalis – or roughly half the country's population – will be totally dependent of food aid and emergency assistance over the next 12 months, United Nations agencies are warning.

Up to 70 per cent of the rural population in the south are threatened by food shortages, and some 36 per cent of children in Somalia are underweight, with one in six is suffering from acute malnutrition, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

“We have never been in a situation so severe. Never, ever before,” said UNICEF representative in Somalia Christian Balslev-Olesen in a statement issued yesterday.

UNICEF and its partners are providing life-saving emergency aid to 5,200 severely malnourished children in camps every month.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) handed out 34,000 tons of food to 1.7 million people this past month, and some 54,000 displaced children under the age of five received supplementary rations from UNICEF.

“The current situation is unprecedented as nearly the whole country is in crisis,” a spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Marie Okabe, told reporters today.

The combined effects of drought and decreased cereal production, coupled with general insecurity, the rising cost of living – including escalating food prices – and the devaluation of the Somali currency have caused this humanitarian crisis.

“We do not, for the sake of security, have journalists reporting from Somalia. So you don't see the pictures, you don't see the reality,” said Mr. Balslev-Olesen.

“You don't have the impact with the politicians, with public opinion, and therefore, it is a forgotten crisis.”


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