UN chief urges ‘massive response’ to avert Somali famine

A severely malnourished child waits with his mother to be admitted to Banadir Hospital in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. An estimated 3.7 million people in Somalia — around a third of the population — are on the brink of starvation and millions more in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have been struck by the worst drought in the region in 60 years. (AFP)
Updated 07 March 2017
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UN chief urges ‘massive response’ to avert Somali famine

MOGADISHU: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged the international community to take action to avert famine in Somalia where a biting drought has left three million people going hungry.
Somalia is facing its third famine in the 25 years that it has been embroiled in civil war and anarchy. A 2011 famine left 260,000 people dead in the Horn of Africa nation.
“There is a chance to avoid the worst... but we need massive support from the international community to avoid a repetition of the tragic events of 2011,” said Guterres.
“It justifies a massive response,” he added.
After a stop in Mogadishu, Guterres visited a camp of displaced people in the central city of Baidoa which has been hard-hit by the drought.
“The major factor for coming here was the drought. There is a lack of water, a lack of food. Our livestock has died,” said mother-of-six Mainouna who arrived in the camp last month.
She only brought three of her children, the youngest of which is one year old, and left the others with her family in the southern region of Middle Juba.
Guterres said the world had a “moral obligation” to help people like Mainouna.
Guterres earlier met with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a popular leader whose recent election has sparked hope among Somalis of a more stable future for a country notorious for being the world’s foremost failed state.
“We have a drought which could result in a famine if we don’t receive any rain in the coming two months,” said the president, better known by his nickname Farmajo.
While Somalia is inching closer to stability, Farmajo warned after his election that there would be no quick fixes for the country after decades of repeated cycles of drought and insecurity.
African Union troops forced the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab group out of the capital in 2011 but the jihadists still control parts of the countryside and carry out attacks against government, military and civilian targets, seemingly at will, in Mogadishu and regional towns.
“It is the dramatic situation of countries like Somalia that has created terrorism,” said Guterres.
The Horn of Africa nation is one of three countries — along with Yemen and Nigeria — on the verge of famine which has already been declared in South Sudan.
Conflict and severe drought are the common denominators that have led to an unprecedented number of famine alerts at one time around the world.
The United Nations said last month that $4.4 billion (4.1 billion euros) in emergency funding is needed to address the crisis in the four countries, where more than 20 million people face starvation.
In South Sudan, 100,000 people are already suffering from a “man-made” famine due to three years of civil war.
An official declaration of famine is made when 20 percent of the population in the affected area has extremely limited access to food, acute malnutrition is higher than 30 percent, and more than two per 10,000 people are dying every day.
In Somalia, the drought has led to a spread of acute watery diarrhea, cholera and measles, and nearly 5.5 million people are at risk of contracting waterborne diseases.
On Saturday Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire said at least 110 people had died in 48 hours from “droughts and acute watery diarrhea” caused by lack of food, medicine and access to safe drinking water.
“The combination of conflict, drought, climate change, diseases and cholera is a nightmare,” Guterres told journalists during the flight to Mogadishu.
Several failed rainy seasons have also severely impacted other east African nations such as Ethiopia and Kenya, and much of southern Africa.
East Africans are holding their breath just weeks ahead of the main annual rains. If they fail, the situation will turn from crisis into catastrophe.
Guterres’ visit to Somalia is only the third by a UN secretary general since 1993 — two years after then president Siad Barre was overthrown, plunging the country into civil war.
Guterres’ predecessor Ban Ki-moon visited in 2011 just months after the country’s last famine which was Africa’s worst in 20 years. He returned in 2014.


NZ foreign minister headed to Turkey to ‘confront’ Erdogan’s mosque shooting comments

Updated 7 min 23 sec ago
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NZ foreign minister headed to Turkey to ‘confront’ Erdogan’s mosque shooting comments

  • President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not
  • His comments came at a campaign rally that included video footage of the shootings
SYDNEY: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday Foreign Minister Winston Peters will travel to Turkey to “confront” comments made by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the killing of at least 50 people at mosques in Christchurch.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Friday prayers.
Erdogan — who is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections — said Turkey would make the suspected attacker pay if New Zealand did not.
The comments came at a campaign rally that included video footage of the shootings which the alleged gunman had broadcast on Facebook.
Ardern said Peters would seek urgent clarification.
“Our deputy prime minister will be confronting those comments in Turkey,” Ardern told reporters in Christchurch. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face.”
Peters had earlier condemned the airing of footage of the shooting, which he said could endanger New Zealanders abroad.
Despite Peters’ intervention, an extract from Tarrant’s alleged manifesto was flashed up on a screen at Erdogan’s rally again on Tuesday, along with footage of the gunman entering one of the mosques and shooting as he approached the door.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he summoned Turkey’s ambassador for a meeting, during which he demanded Erdogan’s comments be removed from Turkey’s state broadcaster.
“I will wait to see what the response is from the Turkish government before taking further action, but I can tell you that all options are on the table,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Morrison said Australia’s ambassador to Turkey will on Wednesday meet with the members of Erdogan’s government.
Morrison said Canberra is also reconsidering its travel advice for Australians planning trips to Turkey.
Relations between Turkey, New Zealand and Australia have generally been good. Thousands of Australians and New Zealanders travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services.
Just over a century ago, thousands of soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) struggled ashore on a narrow beach at Gallipoli during an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.
The area has become a site of pilgrimage for visitors who honor their nations’ fallen in graveyards halfway around the world on ANZAC Day every April 25.