U.N.: Somalia Drought & Famine Reaching “Unimaginable Proportions”
Antonio Guterres, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says childhood malnutrition and starvation resulting from Somalia’s severe drought could lead to a “human tragedy of unimaginable proportions,” the BBC reports.
The drought, combined with ongoing violence in the East African country that has not had a functioning national government in 20 years, has led to a situation in which fully a quarter of all Somalis are either internally displaced or refugees living in neighboring countries, mainly Kenya and Ethiopia.
“It’s so extreme,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told the BBC. “Our people are saying they’ve never seen anything like it.”
Indeed, this is the worst drought to strike the area in 60 years. It is affecting some 12 million people, not only in Somalia, but throughout the Horn of Africa.
Children are dying on their way to or shortly after arriving at refugee camps, with half of Somali children arriving in Ethiopia suffering from severe malnutrition. Among arrivals in Kenya, that figure is between 30 and 40 percent.
En route to the the refugee camps, Somalis have more than just hunger and thirst to overcome. Some say they’ve been robbed, raped or even attacked by wild animals.
Camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are filling up so quickly that new ones are being planned. The Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya is currently receiving around 1,400 new arrivals each day. Aid agencies are struggling to deal with the influx of desperate refugees. Food and water supplies are stretched thin, and Kenyan Commissioner for Refugee Affairs Badu Katelo told the BBC that the security situation is deteriorating as well.
“We would like to see a vibrant, committed intervention from the international community,” he said.
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