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Somalia: UN’s top humanitarian forum warns of ‘tipping point’ as famine risk rises

The IASC brings together the heads of 18 organizations, namely key UN agencies and their partners, to better prepare for and respond to humanitarian crises. Meanwhile, millions more Somalis face extreme levels of acute hunger. Women, particularly pregnant and lactating women, as well as children under five, are among the most vulnerable, and require urgent assistance now to avoid a worst-case scenario. 

‘Unacceptable’ hunger crisis 

In a statement issued on Monday, the principals of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) called for increased support and humanitarian access to save lives.
The statement called for all sides to facilitate immediate and safe access for humanitarian operations. 
“Famine is at the door,” he said, “and today we are receiving a final warning.” 
“I have been shocked to my core these past few days by the level of pain and suffering we see so many Somalis enduring,” he told journalists in the capital, Mogadishu. 
“Starvation and death are likely already occurring. During the 2011 famine, about 50 per cent of the more than 250,000 people who died, did so before the official declaration. At least half were children,” they said. 
UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Martin Griffiths, the IASC chair, wrapped up a five-day visit to Somalia on Monday, his first to the country. 

‘Explosion in needs’ 

Furthermore, despite global commitments to anticipating crises, funding has not reached the scale needed. 
“Together, we have averted famine before. We can and must do so again,” they said.  
However, even though local authorities, governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been issuing alerts about catastrophic hunger for more than a year, they said these alerts have largely been overlooked. 
Getting aid to rural communities before they are forced to abandon their homes in search of food is critical, they added. 

Facilitate access, provide funding 

The partners also appealed for donors to provide immediate, flexible funding so that humanitarian agencies on the ground, particularly local and international NGOs, can rapidly scale up and prevent more deaths, protect livelihoods, and avert a deepening catastrophe
They said famine declarations should not be the only trigger for meaningful action. 
The warning comes as some 20.5 million people across the Horn of Africa are in the grip of what its chiefs called “a dire and entirely avoidable hunger crisis”, adding “this is unacceptable”

‘A final warning’ 

Although a rapid scale-up of humanitarian assistance since early in the year has undoubtedly saved many lives, the “explosion in needs” is quickly outpacing resources. 
Famine is already unfolding in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts in south-central Somalia, and they said the situation will likely last until March if aid is not significantly and immediately scaled up
“In a world of staggering wealth, it is unacceptable that people are dying of hunger. We must take action now”.  

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