The Facts About the Famine
Sometimes the easiest way to describe what’s happening in a humanitarian disaster is to just state the hard facts and numbers. The information below is from FSNAU (Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit – Somalia). It analyses the situation in East Africa over the past 2 months in a lot of detail.
But first, a brief background on what has created this disaster, particularly in Somalia.
The famine in the Horn of Africa is mostly due to the most severe drought in over 60 years. The rains that support so much of the rural industry – and in turn the economy – in East Africa simply haven’t fallen in the past two seasons. This has had an incredible impact on the production of food, and now on the lives of millions of people.
Think of the recent Queensland floods and the impact it had on the State economy, and the ensuing banana prices. When a natural disaster creates a shortfall in the supply of food, what happens? Food prices go up. Bananas in Australia went from around $4 per kilo to $14 almost overnight.
The same rule applies to food production in East Africa, but the people there are less resilient to such increases in food prices. In fact, it very quickly becomes a life-and-death situation. They no longer can afford to buy food, or pay the higher rates for electricity and other essentials. People begin to move out of their homes and towns in the search for food, security or the preservation of life.
FSNAU REPORT, SEPTEMBER 2011
Based on the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) scale, version 1.1, an area is classified as in Famine when at least 20 percent of the population faces extreme food deficits, global acute malnutrition (GAM) exceeds 30 percent, and the death rate exceeds 2/10,000/day for the entire population. In regard to the current situation:
- Local cereal prices across the south are far above average, more than triple 2010 prices in some areas. These high prices have eroded the value of wages and livestock and, combined with reduced crop production, resulted in substantial food deficits among poor and lower middle households, especially in marginal cropping areas.
- During July and August, FSNAU conducted 34 representative nutrition and mortality surveys across southern Somalia, including 30 among local populations and four among internally displaced populations. Results from 24 surveys are available. Based on the most recent data available for each region, the average GAM prevalence was 36.4 percent and the average severe acute malnutrition (SAM) prevalence was 15.8 percent. The highest recorded level of acute malnutrition is in Bay, where the GAM prevalence is 58.3 percent. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has verified these findings.
- Population-wide death rates are above the alert level (1/10,000/day) across all areas of the south, above the Famine threshold (2/10,000/day) in the Bay, Bakool and Middle Shabelle (Balcad and Cadale) agropastoral livelihood zones, and more than double the Famine threshold in Lower Shabelle and among IDPs in the Afgoye corridor and Mogadishu. Tens of thousands of people have died in the past three months. Under-5 death rates are higher than 4/10,000/day in all areas of the south except Juba pastoral. Under-5 death rates meet or exceed 13/10,000/day (equivalent to 10 percent of children under five dying every 11 weeks) in riverine and agropastoral areas of Lower Shabelle and among Afgoye and Mogadishu IDPs.
Emergency levels of malnutrition and mortality persist in cross border refugee camps. Conditions are especially dire in the new camps in southern Ethiopia, where acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent and mortality has likely surpassed 2/10,000/day, despite adequate stocks of food aid.
For more information, visit http://www.fsnau.org/