Somalian Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire on Saturday said that 110 people had died from hunger in the previous 48 hours in a single region — the first death toll announced in a severe drought threatening millions of people across the country.
Somalia’s government on Tuesday declared the drought a national disaster and the UN estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine.
Khaire spoke during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll he announced is just from the Bay region in the southwest.
Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the UN secretary-general last month in a US$4.4 billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. The UN humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, was expected to visit Somalia in the next few days.
Thousands have been streaming into Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. More than 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding center recently.
The drought is the first crisis for the nation’s newly elected Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.
Previous droughts and a quarter-century of conflict, including ongoing attacks by the militant group al-Shabaab, have left the country fragile.
Mohamed has appealed to the international community and Somalia’s diaspora of 2 million people for help.
About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia “need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished,” the US Agency for International Development’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network has said.
A lack of clean water in many areas means there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, UN experts say.
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