Somalia faces pockets of famine amid soaring food prices, drought: UN
As many as 81,000 people are facing famine conditions in parts of Somalia as drought persists, humanitarian funding dwindles and global food prices soar thanks in part to the Russia-Ukraine war, United Nations agencies warned on Tuesday.
World food prices hit fresh record highs in March as the Russia-Ukraine war roils markets for staple grains and edible oils. Prices were already at 10-year highs before the war due to global harvest issues.
The Horn of Africa region is meanwhile facing the driest conditions in more than four decades after three consecutive rainy seasons failed, with weather patterns indicating the rains are likely to fail again this year.
The UN food, humanitarian affairs and childrens' agencies said famine could take hold in Somalia in the next three months if humanitarian funding doesn't pick up, food prices soar further due to the conflict in Ukraine and the rainy season fails again.
Countries in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East are highly dependent on wheat and fertilisers from Ukraine and Russia. They face price spikes and possible shortages after a drop in supplies since the war began.
Famine is only declared by UN agencies when 20 percent of a population are experiencing it.
So far the agencies have identified six different regions in Somalia where 5-10 percent of the population or 81,000 people are facing famine conditions.
In addition, they say six million Somalis, or almost 40 per cent of the population, are now facing extreme levels of food insecurity - nearly a two-fold increase since the beginning of the year.
The UN's 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan that seeks $1.5 billion is only 4.4 percent funded to date, the agencies warned, and Somalia is competing with other global emergency hotspots for funding.
It faces a risk of widespread famine, the agencies said, if their funding gap is not urgently addressed.
"This is a year of unprecedented humanitarian needs and hunger but I implore the world not to turn its back on Somalia. Millions of lives are at stake," said the World Food Programme's Somalia representative El-Khidir Daloum.
In 2011, famine conditions are estimated to have killed a quarter of a million people in Somalia.