The UN, for the first time in decades, had declared a famine alert. Millions in Somalia face starvation. The West cannot be stuck in its own woes.
In a rare declaration, the United Nations has officially alerted the world to a famine – one in need of an urgent response from both governments and individuals.
This rare declaration, issued today, was for two southern regions of Somalia, a country in the grips of not only a drought but also the Islamist militant group Al Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda.
In much of East Africa, more than 11 million people face severe shortages of food and water. The area is suffering its worst drought in 60 years.
Nearly half a million Somalia refugees have fled into Kenya and Ethiopia. In Somalia itself – a failed state – a similar number of malnourished children are now in extreme peril in Lower Shabelle and Bakool, the two famine-designated regions.
Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, warned: “If we don’t act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months.”
Yet governments have been slow to respond to the pleas of aid agencies for $600 million to $800 million to help curb mass starvation. Many countries, like the United States, are focused on their own financial woes, such as rising debt.