Hundreds of thousands of people in Somalia may die or be near death by May unless immediate action is taken to prevent a famine, Britain’s envoy for the Horn of Africa says.
Nicholas Kay said at a briefing for a group of journalists that Britain is “deeply concerned by the famine warning in Somalia”.
Somalia, which faced famine in 2010-2011, is currently experiencing widespread drought that was first declared in August 2015. According to the UN humanitarian office, five million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network warned earlier this month that “nearly three million people in Somalia face crisis and emergency acute food insecurity” – with little to eat.
The network, started by the US Agency for International Development, said approximately 363,000 acutely malnourished children “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished”.
Britain’s government is organising a conference on Somalia in London in May seeking to spur progress on long-term stability and security in the country, but Kay said that “action is needed immediately”.
“If by the time the conference in May happens we are having to sound the alarm and discuss the famine issue, that is going to be too late,” said Kay, the former top UN envoy for Somalia. “There may be hundreds of thousands of people dead or about to die.”
Somalia began to fall apart in 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and attacks by the al-Shabab Islamic extremist group, along with famine, shattered the Horn of Africa country of some 12 million people. The country has been trying to rebuild since establishing its first functioning transitional government and electing a new president on February 8.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the top priority for President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s new government must be tackling the drought and “the imperative of averting a famine.”