Somali ambassador urges world action on famine

Somali women sit in a line to receive aid at a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia (Keystone)

by Mohamed Cherif in Geneva, swissinfo.ch

Somalia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva has sounded the alarm over the desperate food shortage in his country, where famine has been declared in the south.
For several years, Yusuf Muhammad Isma’il has ensured a diplomatic presence for Somalia, hit by civil war over the past 20 years and now suffering from the effects of drought and famine.

In an interview with swissinfo.ch, the ambassador said that in addition to the political crisis the country was now facing its worst humanitarian crisis in 60 years.

Humanitarian organisations and the UN have raised the alert over the health and food situation in the Horn of Africa in general and in the Somali refugee camps in Ethiopia in particular.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced on July 19 in Geneva that the mortality rate had reached 7.4 deaths per 10,000, which is “sharply above the sub-Saharan baseline”, according to Paul Spiegel, the UNHCR’s chief of public health.

Although describing an area as “famine-stricken” requires specific statistics about the entire region, not only the refugee camps, the UNHCR expert pointed out that “the malnutrition rate inside the camps has reached 26.8 per cent”. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said last week that more than 12 million people were suffering from the effects of drought and famine in the countries of the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia).

Isma’il recalled that the warning of a potential disaster had been made several times over the past ten years. More than four million people from Somalia alone are believed to have escaped to Kenya and Ethiopia, in addition to internal displacement towards the stable areas in the north of the country and towards the capital, Mogadishu.

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