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DEC agencies respond to crisis in Somalia

20 July 2011

Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) member agencies are continuing to scale up their work in south and central Somalia in response to what the United Nations (UN) has now recognised as the first famine in the region since that in south Sudan in 1998.

 The UN declared a famine this morning in the regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle with other areas expected to follow as more information becomes available and the situation continues to deteriorate.

The UN said malnutrition (GAM) has exceeded 30% in some areas. A level of 15% is considered an emergency, with 30% or more being one of the indicators of famine. In addition, the areas concerned have met another grim indicator of famine - more than two people in 10,000 are dying each day.

Ten of the 14 agencies that make up the DEC are working in Somalia directly or through partners, including in some cases in the south or centre of the country.

DEC member agencies and their partners operate under strict rules of humanitarian impartiality and independence to ensure continued safe access to as many people in need of help as possible but the situation in Somalia is exceptionally challenging.

Disasters Emergency Committee Chief Executive Brendan Gormley said:

"Access to south and central Somalia has long been very difficult but was never impossible. Following an announcement that restrictions in the area would be eased our member agencies have been seeking to build on their existing work to reach more of those worst affected by the famine.

"Today's announcement makes clear quite how critical those efforts will be if we are to avoid deaths on a massive scale. If we can increase the number of people we are reaching at the epicentre of this catastrophe we can still save many lives."

The humanitarian crisis in Somalia has been caused by a combination of factors including severe drought, rising food and fuel prices, chronic poverty and conflict.

The United Nations has called for aid agencies to increase their work in Somalia to ensure help gets to those who need it. This followed last week's announcement by one party to the conflict that it easing access to foreign agencies working in the areas it controls.

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