Famine ‘at the door’ in parts of Somalia, says UN humanitarian chief

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UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths warned on Monday that Somalia was on the brink of famine after being hit by four failed rainy seasons that have caused a devastating drought.

“Famine is at the door and we are receiving a final warning,” Griffiths said at a press conference in Mogadishu, saying famine was likely to occur in two areas in south central Somalia between October and December this year.

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Somalia and its neighbors in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia and Kenya, are in the grip of the worst drought in more than 40 years, which has wiped out livestock and crops.

Humanitarian agencies have been ringing alarm bells over the deteriorating situation for months, with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) saying last month that the number of people at risk of starvation across the region had increased to 22 million.

In Somalia alone, the number of people facing crisis hunger levels is 7.8 million, or around half the population, while around one million people have fled their homes in a desperate search for food and water, UN agencies say.

Griffiths, the head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), arrived in Mogadishu on Thursday for his first visit to Somalia.

He told reporters on Monday he had been “shocked to my core these past few days by the level of pain and suffering” he had witnessed.
“The clock is running -- it will soon run out,” he said.

The conflict-wracked country is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change but is particularly ill-equipped to cope with the crisis.
A deadly insurgency by the radical Islamist Al-Shabaab group against the fragile federal government is limiting humanitarian access to many areas.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said the Horn was likely facing a fifth straight failed rainy season over the months of October to December.

In 2011, famine in parts of Somalia, one of the poorest countries on the planet, cost the lives of 260,000 people, more than half of them children under the age of six.

Read more:

Race against time to avert famine in Somalia: UN agencies

UN aid chief says two million children risk starving to death in Horn of Africa

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