UN monitors warn of major famine crisis
Some 2.6 million Somalis now require help to feed themselves, an increase of 40 per cent since January, according to figures compiled by the Food Security Analysis Unit.Updated: May 01, 2008, 20:39 IST
Record-high food prices and prolonged drought are leading to a major famine crisis in Somalia, UN monitors said on Thursday, warning that half the population could need help by the year-end.
Some 2.6 million Somalis now require help to feed themselves, an increase of 40 per cent since January, according to figures compiled by the Food Security Analysis Unit, part of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.
"This increase is mainly due to the addition of 600,000 urban poor, who now face conditions of acute food and livelihood crisis and humanitarian emergency," said a statement from the monitoring team.
The dire situation has been exacerbated by relentless conflict, a sharp devaluation of the Somali shilling and hyper-inflation, as well as the delayed start to the April-June rainy season.
The monitors said cereal prices had increased by between 110 and 375 per cent in the last year just as central Somalia endured its worst drought in recent memory.
"The urban poor are struggling to cover their basic needs as the cost of a minimum food basket is now more than double what it was last year," the UN monitors said.
They urged the world to prepare for a worse-case scenario in Somalia, where a weak government is battling a deadly insurgency and worsening insecurity has left humanitarian operations high and dry.
"The number of people in need of assistance could reach up to 3.5 million or half the total population of the country by the end of the year," the UN statement said.