The famine that has gripped war-torn Somalia for the past six months has come to an end, according to the UN. However the situation could deteriorate again if international support does not continue.
Millions of Somalis still need aid
The UN declared an end to the famine in Somalia on Friday six months after it was declared, but warned that conditions remain fragile with millions of people still facing a humanitarian crisis.
In July of 2011, the UN declared famine in two parts of southern Somalia - Bakool and Lower Shabelle - subsequently extending that warning in September to six out of eight regions in the war-torn nation located in the Horn of Africa.
The UN defines famine as a state of extreme food shortage in 20 percent of households, with 30 percent of people suffering from acute malnutrition and two deaths per 10,000 every day.
After initially saying that 750,000 Somalis faced imminent starvation, the UN said that number decreased to 250,000 by November. Around 2.34 million people still face a food crisis in Somalia, which represents 31 percent of the country's population.
The UN credits the end of the famine to an exceptional harvest that was double the average of the past 17 years, as well as food deliveries by aid agencies.
"The gains are fragile and will be reversed without continued support," said Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.
"There are 1.7 million people in southern Somalia still in crisis. Millions of people still need food, clean water, shelter and other assistance to survive, and the situation is expected to deteriorate in May," Bowden said.
The humanitarian situation in Somalia has been complicated by an ongoing armed conflicted between the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab, which controls much of the south, and the internationally backed government in the capital, Mogadishu. Neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya have set troops into Somalia to fight al-Shabab, which reportedly has links to al-Qaeda.
Al-Shabab expelled the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday, accusing it of providing expired food to women and children. The ICRC said it regretted the decision as it hailed a program that had provided food to more than 1.2 million people between June and December 2011.
The ICRC said 6 percent of the food provided had deteriorated and was withdrawn or destroyed by al-Shabab.
slk/acb (AFP, AP, Reuters)