Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Somalia famine spreads to 3 new regions, U.N. says

Somalia is the darker grey to the east of Ethiopa. Note Mogadishu is just to the right of the mile/kilometer distance marker.

Somalia, officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under communist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory. The internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government controls only a small part of the country. Somalia has been characterized as a failed state and is one of the poorest and most violent states in the world.

Somalia lies in the eastern-most part of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west. It has the longest coastline on the continent, and its terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains and highlands. Hot conditions prevail year-round, along with periodic monsoon winds and irregular rainfall.

In antiquity, Somalia was an important centre for commerce with the rest of the ancient world, and according to most scholars, Somalia is where the ancient Land of Punt was situated. During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade, including the Ajuuraan State, the Sultanate of Adal, the Warsangali Sultanate and the Gobroon Dynasty. In the late nineteenth century, the British and Italians gained control of parts of the coast, and established British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. In the interior, Muhammad Abdullah Hassan's Dervish State successfully repulsed the British Empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region, but the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920 by British airpower.

Italy acquired full control of their parts of the region in 1927. This occupation lasted until 1941, when it was replaced by a British military administration. Northern Somalia would remain a protectorate, while southern Somalia became a trusteeship. 1960 saw the union of the two regions into the independent Somali Republic under a civilian government. Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in 1969 and established the Somali Democratic Republic. In 1991, Barre's government collapsed as the Somali Civil War broke out.

Since 1991, no central government has controlled the entirety of the country, despite several attempts to establish a unified central government.[23] The northwestern part of the country has been relatively stable under the self-declared, but unrecognized, sovereign state of Somaliland.

The self-governing region of Puntland covers the northeast of the country. It declares itself to be autonomous, but not independent from Somalia. The Islamist Al-Shabaab controls a large part of the south of the country. Without a central government, Somalia's inhabitants subsequently reverted to local forms of conflict resolution, either civil, Islamic, or customary law. The internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government controls only parts of the capital and some territory in the centre of the nation, but has reestablished national institutions such as the Military of Somalia, and is working towards eventual national elections in 2012, when the interim government's mandate expires.

During the two decades of war and lack of government, Somalia has maintained an informal economy, based mainly on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications.

From Los Angeles Times: Somalia famine spreads to 3 new regions, U.N. says
More than 12 million are facing starvation, and children are particularly vulnerable. The crisis is likely to spread across the country and into parts of Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, the U.N. says.

Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa— With hunger in the Horn of Africa dramatically worsening, the United Nations on Wednesday added three more regions of Somalia to the list of areas it says are stricken by famine.

More than 12 million people are facing starvation, with children particularly vulnerable. The U.N. last month declared that two regions of Somalia were suffering from famine, and it said Wednesday that the famine was likely to spread across most of Somalia in coming months, as well as parts of Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Somalia is struggling with its worst drought in 60 years, and 3.7 million Somalis are in crisis, mainly in the south — creating Africa's most serious hunger crisis in two decades. Refugee camps in the capital, Mogadishu, are now affected as well, U.N. agencies said.

Shocking images of those suffering have resulted in an increase in aid in the last two weeks, after donors' earlier sluggish response, but violence in the south of the country has limited humanitarian agencies' access.

The U.N. is seeking to raise $1 billion to address the crisis.

"The current situation represents the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world today and Africa's worst food security crisis since Somalia's 1991-92 famine," said a statement Wednesday by the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network, or FEWS NET. It called for a massive global response to prevent more deaths and social collapse.

Increases in food prices are expected to exacerbate the crisis, according to U.N. humanitarian agencies and FEWS NET.

About 860,000 people have trekked out of Somalia, often leaving dead children on the way, hoping to find food in neighboring countries. An additional 1.5 million people have fled drought-ridden areas of Somalia for other parts of the war-torn nation.

Somalia has endured two decades without a functional government, and entrenched clan warfare. Multiple peace deals and efforts to establish a government have failed.

The current crisis is exacerbated by fighting between Somalia's weak transitional government, which controls a few areas of the capital, and the extreme Islamic militia Shabab, which is allied with Al Qaeda and controls much of the south.

The insecurity in the south and Shabab's policies drove out Western aid agencies last year, making it difficult to increase operations quickly to feed the hungry. The group imposed taxes on aid groups and banned female staff.

The U.N. declared last month that the Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia were suffering from famine. On Wednesday, Middle Shabelle and camps for displaced people in the Afgooye corridor and Mogadishu were added.

The crisis is expected to continue until at least the end of the year.

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