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U.N. Declares Famine in Somalia

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Posted on Jul 20, 2011
Flickr / UK Department for International Development (CC-BY)

Somali children who are well enough play in a refugee camp in Kenya.

The U.N. on Wednesday declared the first official famine of the 21st century. The designation was applied to war-torn Somalia, where tens of thousands of people—mostly children—have died of malnutrition.

Famine becomes “official” when more than 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition. Today in parts of southern Somalia, more than half of all children are severely malnourished.

Severe drought and sky-rocketing food prices in the area are aggravated by the fact that the region has been in a state of constant civil and political conflict for more than two decades, and aid officials estimate that some 10 million people need outside support to survive.

The U.S. is the region’s most generous donor nation so far, having pledged $28 million Wednesday in addition to the $431 million it allocated to the cause earlier this year. —BF

The Washington Post:

The famine declaration comes months after U.N. and other aid agencies began sounding the alarm about a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, where an estimated 10 million people are in need of help. The crisis has been aggravated by civil strife, low rainfall rates not seen in half a century and sharp increases in food prices.

“Somalia is facing its worst food security crisis in the last 20 years,” Mark Bowden, the top U.N. official in charge of humanitarian aid to Somalia, told reporters, adding that an infusion of $300 million is needed in the next two months to help alleviate the crisis.

For nearly two decades, Somalia has grappled with civil war and ineffective governments. Today, a weak and corrupt transitional government, backed by the United States and its allies, is in place, with little ability to address the crisis. Much of its energy is focused on preventing the capital, Mogadishu, from being overtaken by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militia.

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By theway, July 22, 2011 at 1:15 am Link to this comment

Too much talk and no action until another half a million people die. What does it matter what they believe in or what their government is like, they are suffering human beings. Spend less on wars and more on those in urgent need.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, July 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment

I thought this was a really good link.

The U.S. has dramatically decreased its aid supposedly for fear of giving a bit of it to Al-Shabab, which it labels as a terrorist organization.

Who the hell are we to judge what is a terrorist organization!!!

These people are dying. They need food and water and the U.S. is responsible. Even if it wasn’t… WTF!!!!

It is and has been entirely possible to get aid to these people.

I will say it again.

It is and has been entirely possible to get aid to these people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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By radson, July 20, 2011 at 7:06 pm Link to this comment

After twenty years of INSTABILITY the UN finally came to the conclusion that there is a famine problem in Somalia .Now according to the Washington Post the US is the biggest donor of aid .Yet the ‘catch 22’ is simple after a million perish ;will you accept our food as ‘debt’ therefore insuring that your debt to ‘us ’ will continue.

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