SHAFAQNA – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has arrived in Somalia to discuss a hunger crisis which he described as a “nightmare” in the East African country.
“The combination of conflict, drought, climate change, diseases and cholera is a nightmare,” Guterres told reporters during the flight to Mogadishu on Tuesday.
“It is essentially a visit of solidarity with Somalia. We are trying to put in place a response mechanism… for trying to prevent the worst,” he said.
On Tuesday, UN Humanitarian Chief, Stephen O’Brien, who is also in Mogadishu, called for urgent and immediate action to alleviate the situation.
Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre said on Saturday that 110 people had lost their lives in a single region in 48 hours due to the drought.
On February 27, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the possibility of the recurrence of a famine that starved 260,000 people to death across the country in 2011. The agency has said more than 6.2 million people need urgent humanitarian aid, including almost three million who are hungry.
According to the WHO, over 363,000 acutely malnourished children and 70,000 severely malnourished children need urgent, life-saving support.
The emerging famine has already forced thousands of people from across the country to stream into the capital, Mogadishu, in search of food, flooding local and international aid agencies.
In addition, the drought has led to a spread of acute, watery diarrhea, cholera and measles across various regions of the country. An estimated 5.5 million people are at risk of contracting waterborne diseases due to the lack of clean water in many areas.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently warned that some 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition could die this year of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
The government has already warned that the widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks.”
The UN’s humanitarian appeal for Somalia for 2017 is 864 million dollars. The money is needed to provide assistance to 3.9 million people, but additional funds are required to cope with the worsening situation, and in January, the UN World Food Programme launched a 26-million-dollar plan to respond to the drought there.
At present, 20 percent of the population in the affected area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition is higher than 30 percent and more than two out of 10,000 people lose their lives on a daily basis.
Over 20 million people face starvation in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria.
Previous droughts in addition to over two decades of conflict, including ongoing terrorist attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab Takfiri terrorist group, have left Somalia fragile.
The urgent calls for humanitarian assistance in Somalia come as the US continues its military presence under the name of anti-terrorism campaign in the African country, conducting deadly drone strikes which lead to civilian casualties from time to time.
Meanwhile, no major reaction by Muslim countries and international bodies, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has been witnessed.
The OIC official website has not posted any report with regard to the ongoing crisis since the news about the extreme drought came out in late February.