U.N. Declares Famine In Sixth Region Of Somalia, Expresses Concern Over Spread Of Disease

The U.N. “announced Monday that Somalia’s famine had spread to a sixth area within the country, with officials warning that 750,000 people could die in the next few months unless aid efforts were scaled up,” the New York Times reports (Gettleman/Kyama, 9/5).

The Bay region “becomes the sixth area to be officially declared a famine zone — mostly in parts of southern Somalia controlled by the Islamist al-Shabab,” BBC News notes (9/5). “Record levels of acute malnutrition have been registered there,” the U.N. News Centre writes, adding that “[t]he number of Somalis in need of humanitarian assistance has increased from 2.4 million to four million in the past eight months, with three million of them in the country’s south,” according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) (9/5).

Though aid officials predict the drought in the region could end in October, “the ensuing rains could raise the risk of waterborne and infectious diseases,” the New York Times reports (9/5). “Cholera, malaria and measles could dramatically increase death rates in an already weakened population,” Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said, according to the Guardian (Tran, 9/5). The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, on Friday said it is “‘extremely concerned’ about the increasingly poor health of Somalis who have arrived recently in Ethiopia after fleeing famine in their home country,” AlertNet writes (Migiro, 9/2).

BBC News reports on the likelihood that people in Eritrea, “one of the world’s most closed nations with no free press and no opposition,” also are suffering from malnutrition. According to the article, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., recently said the Eritrean people “most likely are suffering the very same food shortages that we’re seeing throughout the region (and) are being left to starve because there is not access, there’s a clear-cut denial of access by the government of Eritrea of food and other humanitarian support for its people” (Plaut, 9/4).