Famine threatens a generation in Horn of Africa

Famine threatens a generation in Horn of Africa
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Habibo is a little one-year-old Somali girl. She weighs six kilos, she is nearly blind through malnutrition, and she is battling against death.

She has been brought to a camp run by Médécins Sans Frontières – Doctors Without Borders – at Dabaab in Kenya, 80 kilometres from the border with Somalia.

Other Somali children have not been lucky enough to make it as far. They died during the voyage.

A lack of vitamin A has already deprived Habibo of part of her vision. Her mother Marwo Maalin watches over her day and night, to console her child who does not stop crying from the spasms in her stomach.

“My daughter is seriously ill and we left Habibo’s father back home in Somalia. I pray that she gets back on her feet here, otherwise there is not much I can do but leave it all to God,” she says.

Famine threatens 12 million people in the Horn of Africa, extending towards Sudan and Uganda. In the south of Somalia the United Nations has already officially declared a state of famine.

International organisations are warning the world needs to wake up.

“The situation is going to get worse if the international community doesn’t come to the aid of those who’re affected. We already know there are around 100 children who die every day in Somalia and once again this figure could become bigger and more significant,” says Tidhar Wald, EU Humanitarian Policy Advisor at OXFAM International.

In Mogadishu, the Somali capital torn apart by 20 years of civil war, those who have been able to flee the south arrive starving in the distribution centres of the World Food Programme.

The WFP’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran, speaking from the region, argues there are two million people without aid, presenting a huge challenge to those seeking to help them.

“They need fortified supplemental food in massive quantities throughout the areas where they have been unable to be reached, so mostly in southern Somalia we are seeing a weakened population and we have to focus on this,” she says.

The south is controlled by the islamists of al-Shabab, who have banned international organisations from delivering food. The Red Cross says it has got a month’s supply through to 24,000 people north of Mogadishu.

But the region’s worst famine for at least 20 years threatens many more. With children most at risk, a generation is in danger in the Horn of Africa.

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