Millions hungry as drought grips Somalia

A woman walks through a camp of people displaced from their homes elsewhere in Somalia by the drought. (AP/File)
Updated 06 May 2019
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Millions hungry as drought grips Somalia

  • Somalia is enduring its third-driest long rains season since 1981
  • Close to a million children will need treatment for malnutrition in 2019

NAIROBI: Drought has left nearly two million Somalis in desperate need of food, a humanitarian agency warned Monday, as poor rainfall pushes communities to the brink across East Africa.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said hundreds of thousands of children were already suffering malnutrition in Somalia and millions had abandoned their homes in search of food in the arid, conflict-torn nation.

“The humanitarian situation has deteriorated at an alarming rate as a result of the drought,” Victor Moses, the council’s country director in Somalia, said in a statement.

The failure of the so-called long rains that usually sweep East Africa between March and May has caused widespread crop failures and heaped immense pressure on livestock-dependent communities in the greater region.

Somalia is enduring its third-driest long rains season since 1981.

The UN estimates that 1.7 million people are going hungry, with that figure expected to grow by another half a million come July.

Last week, the UN said 44,000 Somalis had left their homes in rural areas for urban centers just this year — joining the estimated 2.6 million internally-displaced people across the country.

Close to a million children will need treatment for malnutrition in 2019.

“The deterioration has come much earlier than seen over the last decades and before affected communities could recover from the most recent drought,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

But the hunger crisis could extend well beyond Somalia, with the entire Horn of Africa region at risk from drought and extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.

Almost 80 percent of the population in the Horn depend on farming for a living, said the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network said in April that if rains did not materialize in May “the season will have failed and the impact on food security outcomes would be more severe than currently anticipated.”

The US-funded network warned more than 42 million people in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and nearby Yemen were currently facing crisis levels of food insecurity.

In Kenya, considered the most dynamic economy in the region, the World Bank in April cited the impact of drought when trimming its growth forecast for the country in 2019.


Sudan’s army calls for unconditional talks with protesters

Updated 12 min 4 sec ago
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Sudan’s army calls for unconditional talks with protesters

  • Protest leaders have set conditions for a resumption of talks, including a withdrawal of the military and militias from cities
  • At least 128 people were killed across the country since security forces cleared the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military council said talks on the transition of power should resume without preconditions, signaling a continued standoff with opposition leaders who launched nighttime demonstrations to push for civilian rule.
Protest leaders have set conditions for a resumption of talks, including a withdrawal of the military and militias from cities, the resumption of Internet service and an international investigation of the violent razing of their sit-in camp on June 3.
Transition talks collapsed over the military’s crackdown.
At least 128 people were killed across the country since security forces cleared the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters. Authorities offer a lower death toll of 61, including three from security forces.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the council, told health workers in Khartoum on Wednesday that the council did not have preconditions for returning to the negotiating table with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, which has represented protesters.
He said neither side should make up-front demands.
“I repeat our invitation to all political forces and the FDFC to come (for talks), and there is no need for preconditions,” he said. “We do not deny their role in the uprising and the popular revolution ..., but the solution should be satisfactory to all Sudanese factions.”
Protest leaders could not be reached immediately for comment.
On Saturday, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said it would stick to its conditions for the resumption of talks.
Meanwhile, protest leaders launched nighttime protests this week.
Late Wednesday, about 300 protesters, mostly young people, marched in Khartoum’s western district of Abbasiya, waving Sudanese flags and calling for justice for those killed since the sit-in dispersal.
Protesters avoid daytime demonstrations for fear of being quashed by security forces heavily deployed in Khartoum.
The military council has rejected the idea of an international probe and said it had started its own investigation along with another one by prosecutors.
An Ethiopian initiative to resume talks apparently failed to make progress in the deadlock. A top general in the military council pushed back last week against a key demand from the protest leaders to have the majority in a transitional legislative body.
Burhan said that the country cannot remain without a government, more than three months after the military ousted autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
“We do not want that things (get) out of control,” Burhan said. “Another coup could be carried out because of the country’s impasse.”