Somalia Facing 3rd Famine Crisis in 25 Years, UN Chief Pleads World for Aid

People inspect the scene of an explosion, thought to be caused by a car bomb, which killed at least 14 people in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia, 19 February 2017. The civil war which has been raging in large parts of Somalia since 1991 has been a major cause for the three famine crises experienced by the country in the past quarter of a century. Photo: Said Yusuf Warsame/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • The UN urgently needs USD 825 million to tackle the growing famine in Somalia.
  • East African nation faces civil conflict, drought, famine, and a cholera outbreak.
  • Last time Somalia suffered famine, some 260,000 people died of starvation.
  • Horn of Africa country has been in a state of civil war, with major regions seceding, since 1991.
  • Somalia is at gravest risk of famine together with Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has arrived in Somalia on an emergency visit issuing a plea for aid as the East African country faces its third famine crisis over the past quarter of a century.

The situation in Somalia, which has been ripped apart by civil wars since 1991, has worsened since on February 23, 2017, Guterres and other top UN officials warned that four countries, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, were facing “devastating” famines.

Nightmarish Combination

UN chief Antonio Guterres landed in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday, on his first field trip since he assumed office in January in “a show of solidarity with Somali people”, The East African reported.

It notes that at present the Horn of Africa nation faces a triple crisis of famine, conflict, and a cholera outbreak.

Guterres met Somalia’s recently elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, aka “Farmajo”, and was expected to visit people affected by famine and cholera in order to try to attract international attention to the humanitarian crisis.

“The combination of conflict, drought, climate change, diseases and cholera is a nightmare,” stated the UN Secretary General.

“We need to make as much noise as possible. Conflict, drought, climate change, disease, cholera. The combination is a nightmare,“ he added.

Gutteres urged the international community to provide a donation totaling USD 825 million to combat the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

On Monday, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said 110 people had died over the previous 48 hours in southern Somalia as a result of famine and diarrhea.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) poses for photographs with President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed in Mogadishu, Somalia, 07 March 2017. Photo: Said Yusuf Warsame/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Traffic and Hopeful’

Last month, Guterres warned that the UN needed to raise at least USD 4.4 billion by the end of March to avert a famine catastrophe in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.

He also said only USD 90 million of the pledged funds had been received, which was “around two cents for every dollar needed”

Back then the UN and its humanitarian aid partners said they were hoping to be able to help with food over 2 million people in Northeast Nigeria, 5.5 million in Somalia, 5.8 million in South Sudan, and 8.3 million in Yemen.

Also in February, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Somalia was facing its third famine in 25 years as a result of both drought and ongoing armed conflicts.

The last time the East African country suffered famine back in 2011, some 260,000 Somalis died of starvation.

WHO said more than half of the population — about 6.2 million people — were in need urgent humanitarian aid.

Somalia’s President Farmajo already declared the severe drought a national disaster and asked the international community for help.

According to UN Secretary General Guterres, however, this time the situation is “both tragic and hopeful.”

“This time we are better organized to respond much faster – the UN, the NGOs, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and governments – in terms of logistics and funding,” Guterres said.

Guterres’ present visit to Somalia is the third by a UN Secretary General since 1993, two years after then President Siad Barre was toppled in 1991, which plunged the East African country into a civil war.

Somali children stand in front of their makeshift shelters at a camp for internally-displaced persons in war-torn Somalia’s Capital Mogadishu, 19 January 2012. Photo: Dai Kurokawa / EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Somalia’s Man-Made Famine

Before Guterres, Somalia was visited by his predecessor Ban Ki-moon in 2011, months after the country’s last famine, the worst in all of Africa in 20 years, and then again 2014.

Somalia has been trying to put together its first fully functioning central government since the country descended into a civil war in 1991.

A UN mission which was supposed to help stabilize the country was withdrawn in 1995, having suffered a large number of casualties (including 19 US troops killed in the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, an event recreated in the 2001 Oscar-winning film “Black Hawk Down”).

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Somalia was seen as an example of a failed state in which the central government in Mogadishu lost control over most of the country’s territory, much of which saw the rise of powerful warlords involved in smuggling and piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

Some of Somalia’s regions, most notably, Somaliland and Puntland in the north, remain largely  autonomous from the government in Mogadishu, which has proper control over only a relatively small region around the capital. While Puntland is seen as a pro-government territory, Somaliland in the northwest has proclaimed its independence.

Islamist militant group Al-Shabab still controls large territories in the southern third of Somalia.

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