More than 850,000 people in Somalia are living in a state of acute malnutrition and food insecurity, according to an estimate by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The “alarming” number represents a 17 percent rise in the number of people facing a food crisis in the impoverished African nation over the last six months, the U.N. agency said, in a statement released Monday.
“Nearly 215,000 children aged under five are acutely malnourished, of whom almost 40,000 are severely malnourished and face a high risk of disease and death. In settlements for internally displaced people, global acute malnutrition rates are consistently above the emergency threshold of 15 percent,” the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, in the statement.
Somalia experienced a devastating famine in 2011, caused by a record-breaking drought that was exacerbated by war and lack of access to humanitarian aid. The country, which emerged from a decades-long civil war in 2012, is reeling under almost daily attacks by militants of the al Qaeda-aligned al-Shabab group.
The protracted conflicts and civil war have severely crimped the Somali government’s ability to absorb shocks and provide aid to the nearly 1.1 million internally displaced people. According to the U.N. estimate, more than two-thirds, or 68 percent, of the people who are facing food crisis and emergency are internally displaced.
“The situation among internally displaced people is particularly worrying. … The levels of food insecurity and malnutrition are critical. Humanitarian actors and donors have prevented the situation being a lot worse than it is, but we all need to do more,” U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Peter de Clercq said, in the statement.
However, the food situation in the country is likely to get worse in coming months as the El Nino weather phenomenon -- which results in the warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean -- triggers heavy rains and flooding along the Juba and Shabelle rivers. This, according to the U.N., is likely to lead to disease, and loss of crops and property.
“We must simultaneously address the underlying causes of the country’s predicament, and work on durable solutions that will mitigate suffering while also building a more resilient Somalia,” de Clercq said, in the statement.