UN reports gains in fight against Somalia's famine

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2011 10:01 AM
UN reports gains in fight against Somalia's famine

The U.N. on Wednesday said food assistance has reached nearly half the Somalis in need, though it warned cases of diarrhea and cholera could spike with the seasonal rains expected in October.

Famine relief has gotten to about 1.85 million Somalis, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, reports that cases of diarrhea and cholera are down, though October rains could pose a high risk of transmission of waterborne diseases in highly populated camps for those displaced by the famine.

Tens of thousands of Somalis already have died from a lack of food, and the U.N. says 750,000 more are at risk of death from famine in the next four months. Six areas in southern Somalia have been declared famine zones.

Despite an increase in food aid in Mogadishu, Somalis in filthy camps for the internally displaced continue to die. Food aid is being siphoned off by corrupt powerbrokers, and government soldiers have stolen food.

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The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that even if the October rains materialize, the next harvest season typically accounts for only about 30 percent of Somalia's yearly food production _ not enough to meet the immense need.

"Trying to lower the record high levels of malnutrition under such circumstances is an uphill battle," said Andrea Heath, the head of ICRC's economic-security activities in Somalia.