Half a million people face acute food shortages in southern Somalia, UN warns

Half a million people face acute food shortages in southern Somalia, UN warns

Concerned about the fate of some 500,000 people in southern Somalia suffering from serious food shortages, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned that any further setbacks could have disastrous consequences.

Concerned about the fate of some 500,000 people in southern Somalia suffering from serious food shortages, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned that any further setbacks could have disastrous consequences.

"For months now we have been warning about a major crisis developing in Somalia," said WFP's Country Director for Somalia, Kevin Farrell. "I now strongly fear that the situation will deteriorate even further unless the level of humanitarian assistance increases substantially."

The situation is particularly acute in Gedo region, where malnutrition rates among children under five have now reached alarming levels. "The current drought, the very low level of humanitarian assistance, the prevailing climate of insecurity and the fears of further disruption could push an already very precarious situation over the edge," Mr. Farrell warned.

Citing a recent survey conducted in Gedo, WFP Information Officer Laura Melo said 37 per cent of children under the age of five were malnourished, with the vast majority of them severely malnourished. "Now this is extremely serious considering that in general, when about 15 per cent of children under five [are] malnourished, [it] is already considered to be a situation of emergency," she told UN Radio.

Over recent weeks, the difficulties faced by Somali families have been exacerbated by the reduction of overseas remittance income with the closure in November of the main money transfer company, said Ms. Melo.

She added that these economic difficulties compounded other conditions threatening food security in southern Somalia. "It is not only the closure, it is the drought which is very serious, the inflation, and there's also a ban on the export of livestock from Somalia because of Rift Valley disease, so all these factors have contributed for a very poor food situation and we notice there has been a huge increase in the levels of malnutrition."

Aiming to prevent a humanitarian disaster, WFP is distributing food in Gedo region, while continuing food-for-work projects that provide income while rehabilitating local infrastructures.