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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

AFRICA AFFAIRS: Famine Relief in Somalia Stymied by Access!


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By Lily Hough, ipsnews.net / WASHINGTON, Aug 2, 2011 (IPS).

A woman holds a malnourished baby at the Badbado camp for Internally Displaced Persons. / Credit:UN Photo/Stuart Price

While an estimated 12.4 million people linger on the brink of starvation in the Great Horn of Africa, U.S. officials and world relief agencies said Monday that even in a "best case scenario" the crisis will worsen as the areas in most desperate need remain cut off from access to relief.

"We haven't seen a humanitarian crisis this bad in a generation," Reuben Brigety, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the Department of State, said at a panel here "Famine in Somalia: An Expected Turn for the Worse", hosted by theBrookings Institution Monday.

"This is an unparalleled situation," added Semhar Araua, Horn of Africa regional policy advisor atOxfam International. "This is about people's ability to cope, and people in this region have been able to respond day in and day out, for years, through conflict and insecurity, and it is at this time that we are seeing an inability to cope…an inability to find the basics."

Somalia has been the worst affected by the region's drought, which the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs said Monday is only getting worse as the upcoming months officially mark the region's dry season.

While aid deliveries to the region have been delayed in general from an international community caught off guard by the severity of the drought, what sets the most affected areas in Somalia apart, according to Allan Jury, director of the U.S. Relations Office of the World Food Programme (WFP), is the near total absence of humanitarian access to those areas.

"We do have funding challenges but I would say the access challenges are in many ways bigger than the funding challenges," Jury said of the southern region, where he said his agency has been unable to operate since January 2010. "There is a reason why Ethiopia is a manageable expanding crisis and Somalia is a famine. They are not accidental and they are man-made…because the rain statistics on both sides of that border are very similar."

As ugly as the word drought has become in the country's strife- stricken south, it may not be the primary setback for the some two million clinging to life there – especially when relief agencies struggle to funnel food into areas controlled by Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents. 

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