Social Issues July 20, 2012
Somalia One Year After Famine Was Declared

It was one year ago today that the UN declared a famine in Somalia, a moment the organization says "marked the start of the 2011 food crisis in the Horn of Africa". A year later, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided an overview of the situation on the ground, with some good news, and also an urgent reminder that more help is needed.

According to the WFP, there is no longer a famine in Somalia. They say a mixture of humanitarian assistance and good rainfall at the end of 2011 helped to put an end to famine conditions. But hunger is still prevalent in many areas of the country, and more assistance is required to ensure that the people of Somalia continue to be fed.

Sikander Khan, the head of UNICEF Somalia stresses the importance of aid: "We're concerned that just by declaring the famine is over, people may think everything is fine. It's not fine. One in five children is malnourished. Donors have been very generous but we need to sustain this momentum ... to make these children resilient".

The latest official data found that 2.5 million people are still "in crisis" throughout the country, and an estimated 325,000 children are acutely malnourished. While the malnutrition rate among children aged 5 and under has dropped from 30 percent to 22 percent over the last year, the situation remains critical.

Making the food situation worse is the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab, which still holds large chunks of southern Somalia. For some citizens, they are as much of a threat as food shortages. Forty-year-old Halima Hawana told the BBC, "the drought is back and al-Shabaab threatens us. The security is no good". There are signs of progress, however.

"The situation is still critical here," the UN's chief humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, says. "But things are improving. We do have things under control - we are better positioned. We are very unlikely to have [another] famine". To find out more about the situation in Somalia now, and how you can get involved and donate, visit the WFP's site right here.

Alongside their continuing work in Somalia, the WFP is currently working in over 70 other countries: they are engaged in the Sahel region of West Africa, where drought is bringing hunger to millions for the third time in ten years and armed conflict is leading to mass displacements. As well, situations in Yemen and in Syria are creating a need for WFP engagement.

George is the WFP's First Canadian Ambassador Against Hunger. Read more about the honour and responsibility here.

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