2 million Somalis at risk of starvation, says UN official

Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts in Somalia are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity. (AP)
Updated 06 June 2019

2 million Somalis at risk of starvation, says UN official

  • $700 million needed to help the drought-stricken country to check food shortages

NEW YORK: A UN emergency relief coordinator has warned that more than 2 million men, women and children could die of starvation in Somalia by summer’s end if international aid is not sent quickly to the drought-stricken African country.

UN Undersecretary-General Mark Lowcock said about $700 million is needed after a rainless season that has killed both livestock and crops.

He said on Tuesday that the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated $45 million to cover food shortages, water and daily necessities in Somalia as well as parts of Kenya and Ethiopia affected by droughts.

Of a Somali population of 15 million people, more than 3 million are struggling just to meet minimum food requirements, he said, and the shortages are about 40 percent worse now than this past winter.

“What was forecast to be an average rainy season in Somalia is now one of the driest on record in over 35 years,” he said. “Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases.”

The UN aid complements efforts by governments of the three countries to assist their people, especially those with disabilities or who are internally displaced.

Somalia’s humanitarian fund is currently depleted. If financial aid is delayed, the cost of saving lives on the margin of death is much higher, Lowcock said, adding that the option then is to turn to expensive, therapeutic feeding programs.

FASTFACT

More than 3 million are struggling just to meet minimum food requirements

“We could have a quick response now, which would be cheaper, reduce human suffering and more effective, or we can wait for a few months until we get all those horrible pictures on our TV screens and social media of starving kids,” Lowcock said.

Lowcock, who heads the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, said that in past decades droughts came about every half dozen years but recently they have hit every two or three years.

“There’s not really any question in my mind that these more frequent droughts are related to global warming and climate change,” the UN official said. “So the only middle- and longer-term response is to look at alternative livelihoods — a different way to make a living.”

The drought has also forced more than 49,000 people to flee their homes since the beginning of the year as they search for food, water, aid and work mostly in urban areas, according to UNHCR. 

People who are already displaced because of conflict and violence are also affected by the drought, at times disproportionally.

More than 7,000 people were displaced last month alone.

UNHCR has been working with partners and government agencies to assist those affected and displaced by the drought by providing emergency assistance in some of the most affected areas.


Jordan still to set dates to reopen airports amid coronavirus pandemic

Updated 6 min 54 sec ago

Jordan still to set dates to reopen airports amid coronavirus pandemic

  • The government is preparing a list of low-risk countries in time for reopening the airports next month
  • The list will be based on criteria approved by the Ministry of Health

DUBAI: The Jordanian government has not set a specific reopening date for its international airports, the Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh said, adding the country was still studying the move.

Adaileh said the government is preparing a list of low-risk countries in time for reopening the airports next month, state news agency Petra has reported.

The list will be based on criteria approved by the Ministry of Health, and will include countries with the similar situation as Jordan. Adaileh said the country is still at a “moderate risk level.”

“We were on the eve of moving to the green phase that requires no local cases are recorded for 10 consecutive days according to the severity matrix earlier announced to deal with the pandemic,” the minister said, after a local infection was announced on Tuesday.

Adaileh urged the public to adhere to preventive measures, including physical distancing rules and the use of masks.