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Aid Group Warns of New Food Crisis in Somalia

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Save the Children is warning that poor rainfalls and conflict threaten to push hundreds of thousands of Somalis back into hunger, just months after the country recovered from a devastating famine.

The organization's spokesperson, Andrew Wander, told VOA poor rains will likely delay the upcoming harvest in south-central Somalia, which was the hardest hit by last year's food crisis.

“The rains didn't totally fail like they did last year, but they certainly under-performed … Because the rains came late, the harvest is late. And so what we've seen is that there's a gap between the supplies that they have running out, and the next harvest coming in. And that gap is the period we're particularly concerned about.”

Wander says the 1.4 million Somalis already displaced by drought and violence are the most vulnerable to any new food emergency.

“Those people don't have anything to fall back on. They've used up all the limited savings they would have had in last year's crisis, and many of them will have gone into debt trying to borrow money to buy food. Others have just sold everything they've owned, left their homes and gone to look for somewhere better.”

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have died in the famine, which was officially declared over in February. But officials have warned that severe emergency conditions still exist in several parts of the country.

The U.N. first officially declared a famine in two parts of southern Somalia in July after a severe and prolonged regional drought. The famine later spread to include six out of eight regions in the country, located in the Horn of Africa.

It forced hundreds of thousands of Somalis to flee to refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Somali capital of Mogadishu in search of food and water. At the height of the crisis, three-quarters of a million people were at risk of dying.

Somalia has also struggled to deal with a violent insurgency by the militant group al-Shabab, which is engaged in a prolonged battle with African Union troops in parts of southern Somalia.

Save the Children says the conflict continues to force families from their homes and hampers the efforts of already overstretched aid programs.

The organization is calling for urgent funding to help provide further emergency assistance to Somalia. It says it has given aid to over three million East Africans since last year's crisis, but is currently working with a large budget shortfall.


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