UN: Millions of Somalis could face food crisis

The United Nations food agency warned on Monday that war-torn Somalia could plunge into an acute humanitarian crisis if the unrest, drought, soaring prices and weak currency escalate.

“The humanitarian situation in Somalia is deteriorating quickly due to soaring food prices, a significantly devalued Somali shilling and worsening drought,” the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

In response, the agency launched an appeal for $18,4-million to provide emergency and rehabilitation assistance to 2,6-million people, or 35% of the population.

So far, it has received $3,8-million from Sweden and Italy.

The estimated number of those in need is up by 40% since January, and by the end of the year about 3,5-million, or half the Horn of Africa nation’s population, could face serious food shortages, FAO technical adviser Cindy Holleman said.

About 600 000 people living in cities and struggling to feed themselves as food prices rocket are putting a strain on precarious food supplies, while severe drought has hit the central and southern parts of the country, the FAO said.

Years of bloody fighting between rival warlords, which has displaced more than one million Somalis throughout the country, has also fuelled the dwindling food situation.

Graham Farmer, who heads the FAO’s Somalia operations from Nairobi, said the security situation was a serious obstacle, though efforts to aid the country had not stopped.

Concrete measures were vital for aid agencies to gain safe access to crisis zones, the FAO said. Aid workers are often kidnapped by armed men seeking ransom.

Somalia has been shattered by deadly conflicts that have claimed up to half-a-million lives since 1991, when then-president Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.

In 2006 an Islamic militia ousted United States-backed warlords from Mogadishu and briefly ruled large parts of the country before being defeated by Ethiopian forces backing an interim government last year.

Clashes continue, especially in the capital Mogadishu.—AFP

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