The situation is worsening in the two southern regions of Somalia affected by famine, as an insurgent group is preventing those who are trying to seek refuge in neighboring countries from escaping the area.
An article in The New York Times today reports that the Shabab Islamist insurgent group has set up a camp and is imprisoning people who are trying to flee the Shabab-controlled areas of Somalia—the only regions in which the United Nations declared famine nearly two weeks ago.
The Shabab is accused of stealing water during the worst drought in 60 years and diverting it to commercial farms, and the group has also long blocked Western aid organizations from working in their strongholds. The Shabab also called the famine declaration "an exaggeration," and insisted that the Somalis in the camp are coming to it willfully because it creates a "sense of serenity and security."
Meanwhile, tens of thousands are already dead and a half million children are on the brink of starvation. More are suffering from diseases like measles and cholera. A doctor treating the sick and malnourished said what he's seeing is worse than the famine of 1992.
In addition, the United Nation's humanitarian chief said yesterday that without a "massive increase in response" to the crisis in Somalia, "the famine will spread to five or six more regions." They've also increased the amount needed to aid the 12.4 million people in crisis to $2.5 billion. You can see the breakdown of the funding status here.
It's discouraging and horrifying news. But the Times article also points out that the U.N. has begun airlifting in emergency food, and that some members of the insurgent group have indicated they would allow aid to come in to their areas.
All hope is not lost for Somalia. While Heifer doesn't work there, we urge you to take the time to consider what you can do to help. Keep up with what's happening there, or donate to organizations who are on the ground providing aid.