The Irish Times view on hunger in Somalia: hanging by a thread

A fourth consecutive failed rainy season is dragging Somalia and its 16.3 million people to the brink of famine and mass starvation. The country, which has experienced 30 years of bloody conflict, now has some 745,000 inhabitants displaced by drought, and the United Nations is warning that 350,000 children could die by the summer if nothing is done to help them. Six million people are in need of food while 81,000 are already said to be experiencing famine.

As Sally Hayden has reported vividly in these pages in recent days from Dullow refugee camp, in the south west of the country, on the Ethiopian border, the lives of many thousands are hanging by a thread. Their few animals, sole means of sustenance beyond meagre supplies from NGOs, line the edge of the camp. These emaciated carcasses are also testimony to the extinction of pastoralist and nomadic ways of life that sustained two-thirds of this country’s population.Eleven years ago, famine in Somalia – the first big famine of the 21st century – killed a quarter of a million people, half of them children under the age of six. Now global warming is again squeezing the life out of this desiccated land, a tragedy compounded by the control of wide swathes of the country by the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab, which denies access by foreign aid organisations to their territory. Those who flee say conditions for civilians in those areas or places where fighting is ongoing are unimaginable.

To be designated a “famine” at least 20 per cent of households must have a complete lack of food and other basic needs, more than 30 per cent of children must be acutely malnourished, with two people per 10,000 dying each day.

Somalia is apparently not there yet. Or is it? Designation as a famine would certainly help draw desperately needed international attention and ramp up help, but even collating the data is difficult, with many deaths unreported and much of the country unmonitored. The world’s help must not be dependent on an impossible statistical calculation.

Source:- The Irish Times