The United Nations declared famine on Wednesday in two regions of southern Somalia as the country continues to suffer its worst drought in more than 50 years. The drought has affected not only Somalia, but all of the Horn of Africa, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, where MADRE partners with our Kenyan sister organization, the Indigenous Information Network (IIN).

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has said the drought is a result of two consecutive insufficient rainy seasons, leaving the pastoral regions of the Horn of Africa more dry and bare than they have been since the last severe drought of the 1950s.

The United Nations does not use the title “famine” loosely. In order to meet the international standards for famine, a region must have malnutrition rates that exceed 30 percent, widespread lack of food for a large population, and more than 2 in 10,000 people dying from starvation a day. Somalia far exceeds these standards in some areas, with malnutrition rates reaching close to 50 percent. Overall, 2.4 million, more than half of Somalia’s 3.7 million people, have been considered food insecure, with the food crisis and its effects sweeping far beyond the countries’ borders. In Ethiopia, 4.56 million people are considered food insecure, while 2.4 million are insecure in Kenya. Yet, the drought is not the only reason why the Horn of Africa is experiencing a food shortage.

“The impacts of the drought have been exacerbated by high local cereal prices, excess livestock mortality, conflict and restricted humanitarian access in some areas,” FAO said.

As thousands of Somalians flee their homeland for asylum in Kenya, some Kenyan refugee camps have no food distribution, no schooling and a lack of sanitation systems.

The World Food Program of the United Nations said that in order to address the needs of the Horn of Africa until at least the end of the year, they will need $477 million. With more than 10 million people in need of food aid throughout the Horn of Africa, they are still $190 million short of that goal.

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