Millions in need of lifesaving aid as UN declares famine in Somalia
Nairobi 20 Jul 2011 - A massive and immediate humanitarian response is needed to save the lives of millions of Somalis at risk of hunger and disease -- as drought ravages the country and famine is declared in the south.
“The international community has very little time left to address this emergency before it turns into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe,” says Nora Love, who oversees the International Rescue Committee’s humanitarian aid work in Somalia. “Without an urgent infusion of emergency funds, the famine is likely to spread to other regions in Somalia leading to more starvation, disease and displacement.”
Nearly half of Somalia’s population is said to be in need of life-saving assistance and tens of thousands have already died from the effects of drought. Chronic insecurity in south Somalia is also compounding the humanitarian crisis, as aid agencies are struggling to reach the worst-hit areas.
“In light of the rapidly growing needs, it would be a grave mistake for major donors to reallocate existing funds for Somalia,” says Love. “Aid must be boosted to match the scale of this disaster and shifting funds from one area to another within Somalia will only put more communities at risk.”
While Somalia is the worst-affected country, the whole of East Africa has been hit by drought – the worst in 60 years. Consecutive seasons of poor rains have led to widespread loss of livestock and livelihoods, failed crops and soaring food prices, resulting in more than 10 million people facing a severe food crisis.
“The needs are overwhelming and an aggressive and global mobilization of emergency aid is required for this region,” says Gerald Martone, the IRC’s director of humanitarian affairs. “Food aid will save lives, but it’s not a remedy for famine. We need to restore livelihoods lost to the drought so that people can feed themselves and we need to ensure they have access to medical care. During a famine, disease is the biggest killer, not starvation.”
The IRC has been stepping up its response across the region. In drought-wracked central Somalia, the IRC is giving cash and other assistance to pastoralist households whose livestock, pastures and farmland have been decimated. IRC teams are also repairing boreholes and wells and establishing new water points, particularly in areas where women, children and the elderly have been left behind by men in search of water and better land.
With over 1,200 Somali refugees streaming into Kenya’s overcrowded camps in Dadaab daily, the IRC has helped establish reception centers where new arrivals receive food, health screenings and medical referrals. The IRC is boosting medical care at its health care center in Hagadera and providing fortified food to malnourished young children, pregnant women and new mothers to address high levels of acute malnutrition. The IRC is also expanding services for survivors of sexual assault. IRC teams are also increasing nutrition and water assistance in the drought-devastated Turkana region.
Meanwhile, thousands of Somali refugees are also fleeing into swelling camps in Ethiopia. The IRC is trucking in water and installing or expanding water-supply systems in three camps currently serving 82,000 refugees.
Sophia Jones Mwangi (Nairobi) – Sophia.Jones-Mwangi@rescue.org / +254 737-800028
Melissa Winkler (New York) – Melissa.Winkler@rescue.org / +1 646 734 0305
Stefano Gelmini (London) – Stefano.Gelmini@rescue-uk.org / +44 20 7692 2739