About 3.7 million people almost half of the Somali population, which includes an estimated 2.8 million living in southern Somalia, are facing severe food shortages. A combination of one of East Africa’s worst droughts in 60 years and the decades long conflict in Somalia has depleted the country’s food supplies. The United Nations reports that tens of thousands of Somalis have died of malnutrition-related causes in the past few months. The al-Shabab militia, rebels who are fighting against the Somalian government control the southern regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle which are known as Somalia’s breadbasket. These regions have been especially hard-hit by the drought. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have also fled the violence, making the situation in the surrounding refugee camps even more difficult. Another factor that is making matters worse food prices have shot up around the world, straining both aid organizations and the people themselves.
The price for red millet, a grain which makes up a large part of the diet in Somalia, for example, has shot upward by 240 percent in the last year. Many can no longer afford it. The rebels who had chased the majority of aid organizations out of the country, are now urging the groups to return. But aid officials are extremely leery, referencing the dozens of aid workers who have been killed as a result of the ongoing conflict in the area.
Speaking at the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said “ a total of $1.6 billion USD was needed to help, with about $300 million of it required in the next two months to mount an “adequate response.”
“If we don’t act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia,” said Mark Bowden, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. “Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death.”