MOGADISHU, Somalia — Years of severe hunger have plagued Somalia, but the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, only recently recognized that the region is experiencing a famine.
According to Oxfam, famine is considered a “triple failure” for countries.
The first failure is in food production. Due to extreme, long-term drought, the harvest was in half.
“Somalia already had levels of malnutrition and premature mortality so high as to be in a ‘normalized’ state of permanent emergency,” said an Oxfam spokesperson.
The second failure identified by Oxfam is “access failure,” which refers to the number of available livestock that decreased as a result of drought. It is reported that in some regions, animal mortality climbed as high as 90 percent.
Response failure is the third and most complex failure, which is caused by the government’s inability to tackle the country’s chronic poverty. While donations have reached $200 million, according to UN data, $1 billion is required to meet the needs of the people affected by the drought.
Between 2010 and 2012, CNN reported that 258,000 Somalis died as a result of the famine. Furthermore, half of the deaths were children under the age of five. Over the course of four months in 2011, famine killed 30,000 Somalis per month.
Ban Ki-Moon implored the public for assistance in his report on the famine. While a UN displacement camp exists in Somalia, refugees must trek trek hundreds of kilometers on a dangerous, lengthy trip to get there.
Ki-Moon said that one woman traveled 140 kilometers to the camp over the course of three weeks. When she finally arrived, four of her six children were dead. For those who do reach the camp, many die before being nursed back to health.
Ki-Moon said that this does not have to be the fate of Somalis. There is, after all, enough food in the world. The issue lies in the ability of individual citizens to band together in relief efforts.
The unstable government also strains relief efforts. For example, the Somalian government only controls a portion of Mogadishu, while the Islamist militia group, Al Shabaab, controls other regions of the country.
So what can be done to alleviate the strain of famine? According to Oxfam, creating sustainable food production is necessary. In addition, the organization suggests greater assistance in rural areas where poverty is rampant. Building roads to access these areas more easily would also be beneficial in providing aid. Most importantly, formulating a plan of response for these situations is vital.
Providing a sustainable aid program for Somalia would ease the burden caused by disasters like famine.
– Bridget Tobin
Sources: Oxfam, CNN, United Nations