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Somalia After The Famine: 10 Simple Questions

Twelve months after the declaration of famine in Somalia, WFP provides ten simple questions with relative answers in order to better explain what the situation is now like.

July 20 is the one-year anniversary of the declaration of famine in Somalia – a moment which for many  marked the start of the 2011 food crisis in the Horn of Africa. What’s the situation 12 months on? Here are 10 simple questions with (relatively) simple answers:

1.    Is there still famine in Somalia?
No, there are currently no famine areas in Somalia and malnutrition rates have improved considerably over the last year. But remember ‘famine’ has a very precise definition. Hunger can still be prevalent even if there is technically no famine.

2.    What’s behind the overall improvement?
It’s partly due to good rainfall at the end of 2011, which translated into a good harvest and lower food prices. But it is also due to the humanitarian assistance.

3.    Is humanitarian assistance still needed?
Yes, humanitarian assistance is still vital. The gains made over the last year are fragile and millions remain in need. The April-June rains were erratic and not all farmers got sufficient rain for their crops.

One year on. . .

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Key numbers

  • The ongoing food crisis in Somalia continues to affect some 2.5 million people across the country.
  • 1.7 million of those people live in southern Somalia where WFP and other aid agencies have limited access.
  • Since this time last year, WFP has reached around 1.5 million people in Somalia with food assistance.
  • Around 15,000 people are now receiving food vouchers in the central parts of the country where there is food to be bought in the markets.
  • The malnutrition rate among children under age 5 has dropped from 30 percent to 22 percent over the past six months.

4.    So how many people are still in trouble?
According to latest official data, some 2.5 million people are still “in crisis” throughout the country and an estimated 325,000 children are acutely malnourished.

5.    How much has nutrition improved?
Nationwide, compared to last year, the malnutrition rate among children under age 5 has dropped from 30 percent to 22 percent, but the situation remains critical. Without the right nutrition, small children can suffer irreversible effects on their physical growth and on their cognitive development.

6.    Where are the problems worst now?
The most vulnerable groups at the moment are: 1) displaced families and the urban population in Mogadishu; 2)  displaced people in the Afgoye corridor (in the south), Central Somalia and Puntland; 3) families living from farming and herding in Middle Shabelle and Hiran; 4) areas around the Juba River (Southern Somalia); and herder communities around the coasts of Central and North East Regions

7.    Is famine likely to return?
The situation is fragile and progress could quickly be reversed by a variety of factors, including: a below-average June harvest and an increase in cereal prices; outbreaks of disease; a lack of humanitarian assistance and in some areas a lack of humanitarian access; insecurity and military action.

8.    How many people has WFP reached since July last year?
WFP has reached about 1.5 million people in Somalia since the start of the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.  At the moment we are shifting focus from emergency assistance towards targeted programmes – including building reservoirs, wells and roads– that strengthen communities’ resilience to seasonal shocks such as droughts and floods. 

9.    Is it dangerous working in Somalia?
Somalia is one of the most challenging and dangerous environments to work in, largely due to insecurity, poor infrastructure and a widely scattered population. In fact, there are still some areas of the south to which we have no access.

10.    What’s the outlook?
The outlook for the country is mixed. For pastoralist communities in the north and central regions (who depend mainly on raising livestock), things are looking up  due to increased pasture and improved conditions. Other regions (see above) are more worrying. One thing is sure, recovery from such a devastating drought is not a speedy process and the coming year will present its own challenges.