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Somalia facing one of its worst food crises, 5 million left hungry: UN report

world Updated: Sep 20, 2016 23:59 IST
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Children play on the ground outside their makeshift home in a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, A UN report says more than 3,00,000 children under five are acutely malnourished. (AP)

Tears filled Amina Nur’s eyes as she cuddled her frail-looking child with a sunken chest.

She and her family returned to Somalia five months ago after several years in a refugee camp in neighbouring Kenya, but she regrets that now.

“We decided to return home voluntarily, but that was a wrong decision,” the mother of six said. “The small money they gave us ran out, and since then we have no assistance to survive.”

Nur is among thousands of Somalis who fled at the height of a devastating famine which killed over half a million people in this Horn of Africa nation in 2013.

But now they are hungry again.

A new UN report says five million people in Somalia are not getting enough food. That’s more than 40 percent of the population. It blames, in part, poor rainfall in southern and central Somalia, “the breadbasket of the country.”

The report released on Tuesday says the number of people who are food insecure has increased by 3,00,000 since February. More than 3,00,000 children under five are acutely malnourished.

More than half of those without enough food have been displaced from their homes, sometimes multiple times, the report says.

More than a million people inside Somalia are displaced after years of violence, famine and attacks by homegrown extremist group al-Shabab.

Now thousands of others, like Nur’s family, are returning to the country from the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya, which has vowed to close the Dadaab camp in the coming months.

Some returnees said aid agencies haven’t provided them with food since their return to Mogadishu and similar camps elsewhere.

“Security and hunger problems are equal problems for us here,” Nur said. Many of the families returning from the Dadaab camp in Kenya are piling into crowded camps in sometimes dire living conditions.

Meanwhile, the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab continues to carry out attacks in the capital and elsewhere.

“Life here is a nightmare. It’s only between hunger and bombing,” said Ahmed Mohamed, whose wife died in a suicide bombing at a Mogadishu hotel one week after their return in August.

Somalia is facing one of the worst food crises in years. The UN says the growing burden of returnees, and drought in some areas of the country, are other contributing factors.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, more than 1.1 million people cannot meet their daily food requirements.

“Humanitarian partners are ready to scale up response to help families struggling to find food to make it through the day,” Peter de Clercq, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said in a statement.

But he noted that the Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan for this year is just 32 percent funded.