Somalia's president appeals for aid to stave off mass starvation

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed made the appeal to United Nations Security Council, saying half of his country's people are facing "acute food shortages". At least 260,000 people died in 2011 famine in Somalia.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

At least 260,000 people died in the 2011 famine in Somalia — half of them children under the age of five, according to the UN World Food Program.

Somalia's new president appealed to the international community on Thursday for more aid to avert a famine threatening his country that could also undermine fledgling political hopes born in his peaceful election.

"Almost half of our people are facing acute food shortages and about 15 percent are facing famine" amid a severe drought, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said in a video conference with the United Nations Security Council.

Among the many pressing priorities for my administration, responding effectively to the current humanitarian crisis tops the agenda — Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

Somalia, also known as Horn of Africa, is a country of 12 million people facing its third famine in 25 years of civil war and anarchy.

At least 260,000 people died in the 2011 famine in Somalia — half of them children under the age of five, according to the UN World Food Program.

Members of UNSC rise their hand as they votes on the situation in Somalia on Thursday at the UN in New York. [AFP]

Pleas for increasing aid

Mohamed is a popular leader whose recent election has sparked hope among Somalis of a more stable future for a country.

Most of the participants in the discussion praised the electoral process that resulted in the February 8 election of the new president, a dual US-Somali citizen, and his administration's plans.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who chaired the council meeting, also pleaded with members to increase their aid to Somalia.

"The crisis risks undermining the hard-won political progress that has been made. If we learn the lessons of 2011, and act early and decisively, the famine can still be prevented," he said.

Only 32 percent of the $864 million needed this year to prevent famine has been raised, said Michael Keating, the UN special representative for Somalia.

The delivery of the funds is especially urgent to halt the spread of cholera, which now affects 11 of the country's 18 regions, he said.

"More resources are needed by the end of March... to reach affected people before it's too late — Michael Keating, UN special representative for Somalia

Limited time to save millions

No new aid was announced.

Somalia, along with Yemen and Nigeria, are on the verge of famine, while the disaster has already been declared in South Sudan.

The United Nations has called on the international community for an urgent mobilisation of funds  $4.4 billion by July — for the four countries to avert a catastrophe.

On Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the world only has a "window of three to four months" to save millions in the two Yemen and Somalia.