News ID: 188913
Published: 0710 GMT March 07, 2017

UN chief urges 'massive response' to avert Somali famine

UN chief urges 'massive response' to avert Somali famine

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged the international community to take action to avert famine in Somalia where a biting drought has left three million people going hungry.

Somalia is facing its third famine in the 25 years that it has been embroiled in civil war and anarchy. A 2011 famine left 260,000 people dead in the Horn of Africa nation, AFP reported.

“There is a chance to avoid the worst... but we need massive support from the international community to avoid a repetition of the tragic events of 2011,” said Guterres. “It justifies a massive response.”

Guterres arrived in Mogadishu on Tuesday morning for a whirlwind visit which will also take him to a camp of internally displaced persons in one of the hardest-hit parts of the country.

He met President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a popular leader whose recent election has sparked hope among Somalis for a more stable future in a country notorious for being the world’s foremost failed state.

“The reason (Guterres) came here today is to show support and solidarity to the Somali people at this time of humanitarian crisis,” said the president, better known by his nickname Farmajo.

“We have a drought which could result in a famine if we don’t receive any rain in the coming two months.”

While Somalia is inching closer to stability, Farmajo warned after his election that there would be no quick fixes for the country.

The Horn of Africa nation is one of three countries – along with Yemen and Nigeria – on the verge of famine, which has already been declared in South Sudan.

The United Nations said last month that $4.4 billion (4.1 billion euros) in emergency funding is needed to address the crisis in the four countries, where more than 20 million people face starvation.

In South Sudan, 100,000 people are already suffering from a “man-made” famine due to three years of civil war.

An official declaration of famine is made when 20 percent of the population in the affected area has extremely limited access to food, acute malnutrition is higher than 30 percent, and more than two per 10,000 people are dying every day.

On Saturday Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said that at least 110 people had died in 48 hours from water-borne diseases as a result of the enduring drought in the country.

“The combination of conflict, drought, climate change, diseases and cholera is a nightmare,” Guterres told journalists during the flight to Mogadishu.

Several failed rainy seasons have also severely impacted other east African nations such as Ethiopia and Kenya, and much of southern Africa.

East Africans are holding their breath just weeks ahead of the main annual rains. If they fail, the situation will turn from crisis into catastrophe.

Guterres' visit to Somalia is only the third by a UN secretary general since 1993 – two years after then president Siad Barre was overthrown, plunging the country into civil war.


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