The UN says that Somalia’s famine is over, but the world body’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said that continued assistance was needed to stop the region from slipping back.
The world body moved the crisis from the top step of a five-point scale — based on the death rate — to the fourth step on Friday, formally reducing it from a “famine” to a “humanitarian emergency.”
However, the UN said that 2.3 million people remain in a food crisis situation in Somalia and still need assistance. That represents 31 percent of the country’s population. Across the whole Horn of Africa region, the total is 9.5 -million who need help.
The international body declared famine in Somalia in July last year after successive failed rains. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled to refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and the Somali capital Mogadishu in search of food.
The famine was exacerbated by the Somalian militant group al-Shabaab, which has let few aid agencies into the area it controls in south-central Mogadishu.
UN Food and Agriculture Organization director-general Jose Graziano da Silva said that without assistance in the region over the next three months, “those people will not survive.”
“The Horn of Africa will be for FAO the most important region and we’ll be doing our best here to improve food security,” he said. “We do believe it is possible to have a Horn of Africa free of hunger.”
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden said that a massive increase in assistance last year helped lift Somalia out of famine conditions, but he said the international community needed to keep helping.
“The gains are considerable, but they are also very fragile, and one of the things I want to highlight is we have a temporary respite in terms of addressing the crisis in Somalia,” Bowden said.
“The years of conflict and poor rains have left millions of Somalis vulnerable. The mortality rates in southern Somalia are still among the highest in the world,” he later added.
The announcement that the famine had ended was greeted with incredulity and dismay by refugees in Mogadishu.
Fadumo Samow, a refugee at Badbado camp, said reports that the famine was over were “far from the truth.”
Ahmedey Bashir, a father of five, said he feared the announcement would stop famine victims from getting aid.
“The famine is almost over, but we are desperately dependent on the food aid,” he said. “If they stop it, we will be back to it again.”