Africa

Somali children 'at death's door'

  • 7 May 2014
  • From the section Africa
A file photo taken on 19 January 2012 shows displaced Somali children queuing as they wait for food-aid rations at a distribution centre in the capital, Mogadishu
Somalis have known little but crisis for 20 years

More than 50,000 malnourished children in Somalia are at "death's door" less than three years after a famine, a group of aid agencies has warned.

In a report entitled Risk of Relapse, the 22 groups said action needed to be taken to stop the country slipping back into a state of acute crisis.

It said nearly a third of the population needed aid.

These figures show an improvement on recent years but the report warns this should not be seen as a "success".

Ed Pomfret, from UK charity Oxfam, said the statistics in the report would be "arresting in almost any other situation in the world".

More than 250,000 people died in the 2011 famine, caused by a drought.

The disaster affected more than 13 million people across the Horn of Africa and triggered a major refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands of Somalis fleeing the rural areas controlled by the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Shabab group.

The militants had banned several international aid agencies from distributing food in its territory.

"As we learned in 2011, not heeding the warning signs of crisis in already fragile communities can lead to tragedy," the three-page report said.

It said an additional $822m (£485m) was needed to meet funding needs for the year.

"The problem with Somalia is that it has been a crisis for over 20 years... people more or less roll their eyes and think: 'Pirates, terrorists, hunger and death, what can I do about that?'" the AFP new agency quotes Mr Pomfret as saying.

"If we don't act now, we risk the current crisis becoming a catastrophe," he said.

Since 1991 Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battle for control - a situation that has allowed lawlessness and piracy to flourish.

Since a UN-backed government was installed in 2012, a small measure of stability has returned to some areas of the country.

But al-Shabab still controls many towns and rural areas of southern Somalia.

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