U.N. Seeks Aid for Famine-Stricken Somalia

The United Nations and its World Food Programme pushes to open new routes to areas in Somalia where famine lies heavy.  Today, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, stated from Mogadishu (Somalia’s capital city) that the agency will be setting up new land and air routes that enter into the “core of the famine zone.”

Up until just recently, the militant group al-Shabab (which, coincidentally, share a link with another more familiar group: al-Qaida) had imposed a ban on incoming agencies set on giving foreign aid.  

As a drought, in some areas more severe than any seen within the last six decades, landed upon the Horn of Africa vast populations of Somalis were left devastated and in need of proper, and any, nutrition.

According to the Washington Post, due to a lack of water and unsafe conditions within the larger cities in the south of Somalia, countless numbers of people were left with nothing to sustain themselves and were sent “running for their lives.”

As one Somali woman, seen in this video from the Washington Post’s website, comments on the disaster: “Our livelihood depended on the rain—and the rain has stopped.” And just as quickly, so did their ability to effectively help their starving families.  The children have become the most at-risk, in this scenario, of starvation and diseases brought upon by malnourishment.

Already it is estimated that “tens of thousands” of Somalis have fallen victim to these circumstances.

What the United Nations needs and pleads for now is help—plenty of it, and quickly.  Currently the U.N. is petitioning to receive at least $300 million within the next two months (a small but important amount). During this time, they hope to find ways in which they could obtain and deliver additional amounts of food aid into the country.

The United Nations’ top official in regards to the humanitarian aid in Somalia, Mark Bowden, also believes the times are indeed dire: “If we don’t act now,” he explains, “famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks.”

Bowden continues on to plead that “every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life and death for children and their families in the famine-affected areas.”

Conditions have not reached these levels that were last seen back in 1993, when it was noted that the United States sent aid and had two of their Black Hawk Helicopters shot down by the insurgents within the city.

According to the NPR website, a famine is characteristically defined by the death of either two adults or four children for every 10,000 every day—with the addition of at least one-third of the children within the area becoming severely malnourished.

In Somalia, however, these numbers are greatly surpassed—with somewhere around six people dying each and everyday, and malnourishment afflicting over half of the country’s children population—making it an unavoidable crisis.

And the harsh conditions are not estimated to be dissolving any time soon.  The weather, as it turns out, relentlessly continues with no end in sight for the near future (not, at least, until the end of this year).

But now with the ban previously established by al-Shabab lifted, perhaps the road to recovery will come along sooner than anticipated.  “What has been stopping us and our partners from operating in the south and center [of Somalia],” Sheeran states, “have been the insecurity and the restrictions imposed by al-Shabab.”

As of now, help has been arriving with additional monetary support sent by countries like the United States, Britain, the European Union, Spain, and Germany.  This, in turn, sheds a small light on a very dark scene.  

Even with this, however, support is still desperately needed in the area.  For more information on the famine and crises in Somalia and how you can help, feel free to check out the World Food Programme page: http://www.wfp.org/countries/somalia and their “get involved” page: http://www.wfp.org/get-involved.

Photo Credit: newsone.com/world/associatedpress2/somalia-famine/

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