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U.N.: Somalia famine of 2010 - 2012 killed more than a quarter million people

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

According to the United Nations, at least 258,000 people, around half of whom were children, died of hunger during Somalia's 2010-2012 food crisis. The organization says that the world could have done much more to have avoided the tragedy.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This harrowing figure of those killed by famine in the troubled Horn of Africa country exceeds the 220,000 people who starved to death in the 1992 famine.

"The report confirms we should have done more before the famine was declared," U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Philippe Alizarin says. "Warnings that began as far back as the drought in 2010 did not trigger sufficient early action," he said in a statement.

Statistics were tallied by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization and the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

"Famine and severe food insecurity in Somalia claimed the lives of about 258,000 people between October 2010 and April 2012, including 133,000 children under five," the report said. The data was the first scientific estimate of how many died.

Somalia was the African nation hardest hit by the drought in 2011 that affected over 13 million people across the Horn of Africa. Famine was first declared in Somalia's Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, but later spread to other areas, including Middle Shabelle, Afgoye and inside camps for displaced people in war-ravaged Mogadishu.

"An estimated 4.6 percent of the total population and 10 percent of children under five died in southern and central Somalia," the report said. The deaths were on top of 290,000 "baseline" deaths during the period, and double the average for sub-Saharan Africa.

About 2.7 million people are currently in need of life-saving assistance and support to build their livelihoods.

The United Nations declared the end of the famine in February of last year. Famine implies that at least a fifth of households face extreme food shortages, with acute malnutrition in over 30 percent of people, and two deaths per 10,000 people every day.

Uprooted by nearly uninterrupted civil war for the past 20 years, Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers. Security has slowly improved in recent months, with Islamist fighters linked to Al-Qaeda on the back foot despite launching a deadly bombing campaign.

The aid agency Oxfam said the "deaths could and should have been prevented. Famines are not natural phenomena, they are catastrophic political failures," Oxfam's Somalia director Senait Gebregziabher said in a statement.

"The world was too slow to respond to stark warnings of drought, exacerbated by conflict in Somalia and people paid with their lives."

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