Famine Spreads in Somalia

Posted by Nancy Lindborg
September 6, 2011
Somali Woman Carries Food Ration in Mogadishu

Today the U.N. declared ongoing famine in the Bay Region, adding to the five areas in southern Somalia already facing famine conditions. The U.N. also increased the number of Somalis in crisis to 4 million and says that 750,000 are at risk of death in the coming months in the absence of an adequate humanitarian response.

The unfortunate reality is that Somalia is the most difficult operating environment for humanitarians in the world today. Access continues to be denied by Al-Shabaab and other armed groups, creating an indefensible situation where they would rather put hundreds of thousands of Somali lives in jeopardy than allow humanitarian aid in. The massive amount of humanitarian aid required to save tens of thousands of lives simply cannot reach those in Bay Region and other areas in southern Somalia.

You might be wondering why people don't just leave southern Somalia. Many in southern Somalia are already too weak to flee to neighboring countries to receive life-saving assistance. For those who are able to leave, they face a grueling walk through the desert, often with no food or water to sustain them. If they survive the weeks long walk to Kenya or Ethiopia, they often tell haunting stories of losing several children on the way and are so malnourished themselves that they require treatment to survive.

So when the U.N. says "750,000 people at risk of death in the coming four months in the absence of adequate response," what they really mean is that unless we -- the international community -- can get access to provide humanitarian assistance to southern Somalia, the already horrific situation will get worse. Without access, the number of people in crisis will increase, and famine will continue to spread in Somalia.

We continue to call on all parties involved to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Somalis in need. The international community will not stop trying to provide life-saving aid in southern Somalia, and we will not stop trying to gain access to those in need.

The United States is providing over $600 million in assistance to help those affected by drought in the Horn of Africa, including $102 million in assistance to help those in Somalia. U.S. assistance provides food, treatment for the severely malnourished, health care, clean water, proper sanitation, hygiene education and supplies. We continue to look for innovative ways to get assistance into southern Somalia.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears on the USAID Impact Blog.



South Korea
September 7, 2011

Palgye in South Korea writes:


I think that you need a coup d'etat. Due to external forces in Somalia problem solving is almost impossible to believe that you think. Approach for a small problem can be solved through NGO, but, well, support, even for the delivery of relief supplies, I think confidence is difficult. Initially, the task of passing relief materials shot, at least about 7-80% of the forwarding, if the accuracy of the proven, by the way, supported by his friends to solve the problem Let's take this? How to solve the problem in Somalia, always, how cruel they were going to occur at the same time is expected. When external forces are involved, make it difficult to think of the possibilities. Attempt to resolve minor difficulties, I really need to address issues you think the likelihood of forgetting is the result.

Integrating the scattered tribes, build a new country to find someone who will believe. Of course, before the international community's support is urgently required. But, now, when planning and executing large-scale support, in the press in December 2011 for failure of aid is supposed to make a documentary on ............ Individual support to the pros.

United States
September 7, 2011

D.H. in the U.S.A. writes:

How are the countries who are sending assistance insuring the supplies are actually arriving where they are needed? Is the U.N. unable to use aircraft to drop supplies into those areas? It is so disheartening seeing people suffer in such a horrific way.

New Mexico, USA
September 7, 2011

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Nancy Lindborg,

What's really unfortunate is that no one has the political will or the stones to take out al shebaab once and for all the people's good, and all the President's food aid and all the President's good samaritans won't put Somalia back together again until someone in the oval office does make such a decision.

If he's counting on the int. comm. to get that job done, he can simply forgettaboutit.

That's reality for ya, sportsfans!

In the meantime, keep up the good work Nancy,...it's not your fault you can't solve this problem.


Massachusetts, USA
September 7, 2011

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

This may be a situation where the international community asks itself if the famine emergency in The Horn of Africa could signify interest in the formation of an international food/water/health emergency response coalition with full security backing.

Is the cruelness of food/water security a justification for forced international intervention? Starving populations far to weak to migrate, their survival entirely dependent on the world response. Humanitarian aid available yet access denied. A geopolitical dichotomy of the worst kind.


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