Friday, May 03, 2013
About a quarter of Somalia's population still need aid to keep them
from starvation and rebuild their livelihoods, even though much of the
country has been stabilised by a campaign to drive back Islamist
militants, the United Nations said.
A UN report said around 260,000 people, half of them children, had
died between 2010 and 2012 in a famine that had been exacerbated and
kept out of view by the al Shabaab group, who at the time controlled
large swathes of Somalia.
The militants have since been pushed back, mainly by African
peacekeeping troops, although parts of the countryside remain under al
Shabaab's control or influence.
Somalia has been making a slow recovery and a new federal government
is now in place in Mogadishu, but diplomats say the gains are fragile.
Militants still stage attacks and aid workers say many Somalis still
live a hand-to-mouth existence.
As well as bemoaning the restrictions that al Shabaab had placed on
relief efforts in 2010-12, the United Nations said it had learned
lessons from the famine that should ensure better help for the 2.7
million Somalis still reliant on outside help.
"Warnings that began as far back as the drought in 2010 did not
trigger sufficient early action," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for
Somalia Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement.
"In the worst-affected areas, access to people in need was
tremendously difficult," he said, explaining in a news conference
relayed from Mogadishu that famine-affected areas in south and central
Somalia had been under al Shabaab control.
"We have been working with our partners to change the way we
operate," he said, adding that this involved better coordination between
agencies providing health services, clean water and other support to
improve resilience against future disasters.
Restoring order and rebuilding the economy are seen as vital to
preventing a return to the war and anarchy of the past two decades that
made Somalia a base for piracy in the Indian Ocean and a regional
launchpad for Islamist militants.