The World Food Program warned on Friday that it is only a matter of time before Somalia is hit by famine and people start dying in droves.
The UN food agency said it has been able to prevent famine in Somalia by dramatically increasing food aid to millions of very hungry people.
WFP Somalia Deputy Country Director, Laura Turner, said international donations had allowed for more aid, reaching nearly 4.2 million people with food and cash relief.
Speaking from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, he said the WFP was providing food and nutrition assistance to a record number of people. He said beneficiaries include half a million malnourished children and mothers with malnutrition treatment services.
He said the increased food aid had so far prevented Somalia’s hunger crisis from reaching the point of no return. However, he warned that Somalia is not yet out of danger.
“We are in a desperate race against time,” he said. “As we discussed a month ago, if the situation continues to worsen, and we expect it will because we are in the rainy season at the moment, and we have not seen the rain is coming. Or that aid aid does not continue to increase to meet the growing needs, then famine is predicted before the end of this year.”
The United Nations predicts that famine will be likely in the Baidoa and Burhakaba areas of the country’s Bay region. It predicts that up to 6.7 million people across the country will face crisis-level food insecurity before the end of the year.
Turner said the WFP is now reaching more than double the number of vulnerable people with aid it was reaching earlier this year. He said food aid alone will not prevent loss of life.
“Disease, poor hygiene, dehydration – they are all equally worrying,” he said. “We are working very closely on an integrated response to make sure that sanitation, water access, health services are also included in what we are doing so that we can address the this is what drives deaths.”
Turner said in her 20-year humanitarian career she has never experienced such a looming disaster. He called high rates of malnutrition appalling, saying severely malnourished children were at particular risk of dying from starvation and disease.
The World Health Organization reports that half of Somalia’s children, around 1.8 million, suffer from this condition.