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UN declares famine in parts of Somalia

It is the first time famine has been declared in the region in 19 years amid the worst drought in six decades.

A malnourished child in a hospital in southern Somalia.
A malnourished child in a hospital in southern Somalia.
Image: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP/Press Association Images

THE UN HAS this morning declared famine in parts of Somalia where it says tens of thousands of people have died from causes related to malnutrition following the worst drought for over half a century.

Famine is officially defined as when two adults or four children per group of 10,000 people are dying of hunger every day and 30 per cent of the population is acutely malnourished.

The UN says those conditions exist in the Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia. It is the first time that the region has seen a famine in 19 years, according to BBC News.

Some 10 million people are thought to have been affected by the worst drought crisis in East Africa in 60 years.

Refugees have been fleeing parts of Somalia controlled by the Islamist group Al-Shabab into overcrowded camps in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.

Al Shabab had banned aid agencies from the areas it controls over the past two years but partly lifted that ban at the weekend allowing the UN to deliver aid to areas of Somalia that were worst affected.

However, The World Food Programme, which is trying to feed 1.5 million people says it estimates that as many as 1 million people are in areas it cannot currently access.

The US and the UN have called for armed groups in Somalia to provide more assurances for the safety of aid agencies so they can deliver much-needed relief.

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This morning’s statement by the UN said malnutrition rates in Somalia are among the highest in the world.

The former president of Ireland Mary Robinson is travelling with some Irish aid agencies in the region aiming to keep attention on the plight of the region. She said yesterday that the people most affected by the crisis are not responsible for it.

Ireland has also pledged to donate an additional €1 million in emergency funding to help alleviate the crisis. It brings the total Irish aid to the East Africa area since the beginning of the year to €5.6 million.

- additional reporting from AP

Eyewitness: “The people here show me the graves of children” >

In pictures: A photo essay from war-torn Somalia >

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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