UN declares Somali famine over for now
Fri Feb 3, 2012 12:43pm GMT
* Rains, food aid end famine conditions
* Almost a third of population still needs aid
* Rebels say no need for banned aid groups to return (Adds new quotes)
By Katy Migiro
NAIROBI, Feb 3 (AlertNet) - An exceptional harvest after good rains and food
deliveries by aid agencies have ended famine in Somalia for now but food
stocks could run out again in May, the United Nations said on Friday.
The famine, which was declared in July, killed tens of thousands in south
and central Somalia, much of which is controlled by Islamist militants. More
than 2.3 million Somalis, almost a third of the population, are still in
need of aid.
"....famine conditions are no longer present," said a statement from the
office of Mark Bowden, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.
"Millions of people still need food, clean water, shelter and other
assistance to survive and the situation is expected to deteriorate in May,"
the statement cited Bowden as saying.
Al Shabaab said there was no hunger crisis in parts of the anarchic country
it governed and accused aid agencies of misleading the population.
While aid deliveries to some 180,000 people in camps in the capital
Mogadishu have improved the situation there, fighting in southern and
central Somalia is still hampering aid deliveries to the worst-hit areas.
Government forces have been fighting Islamist rebels for the past five
years, while Kenyan and Ethiopian forces both moved into the country last
year to help fight the al Qaeda-linked militants al Shabaab.
The fighting, combined with attacks on aid workers and a history of aid
being manipulated for political gain, means Somalia is one of the toughest
countries for relief agencies to operate in.
CRISIS NOT OVER
Bowden called al Shabaab's expulsion of the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) from its territories a "critical concern".
The militants this week banned the agency, one of few international aid
groups delivering food aid to areas under rebel control, accusing it of
distributing out-of-date food.
Al Shabaab denied a hunger crisis persisted, accused relief groups of
misleading Somalis and said it would not lift a ban imposed on more than a
dozen aid agencies.
"There is no pretext for them," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab
spokesman told Reuters on Friday.
"Let those in Kenyan (refugee) camps and in Mogadishu come to us. There is
no hunger in the areas under our control."
The U.N. said the latest harvest in Somalia was double the average of the
past 17 years, and this had lowered food prices, though mortality rates in
southern Somalia were still among the highest in the world.
In many parts of the south, acute malnutrition rates remain about 20 percent
and access to treatment is severely restricted.
The U.N. said the current harvest offered respite but would provide just 10
to 20 percent of this year's food needs. It warned food stocks could run out
in May, ahead of the main August harvest.
"We have less than 100 days to avoid another famine," said Jose Graziano da
Silva, director general of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
"The crisis is not over. It can only be resolved with a combination of rains
and continued, coordinated, long-term actions that build up the resilience
of the population and link relief with development."
(AlertNet is a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.
> www.trust.org/alertnet) (Additional
reporting by Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; editing by Richard Lough and Philippa
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Fri Feb 03 2012 - 13:45:05 EST