How bad is the situation in southern Somalia right now? The United Nations is set to declare that there is a famine ongoing, which is actually a technical finding when there “is a crude mortality rate of more than two people per 10,000 per day; acute malnutrition reaching more than 30%; water consumption becoming less than four litres a day; and intake of kilocalories of 1,500 a day compared with the recommended 2,100 a day.” The last time a famine was declared in this region was in 1984.
To recap: The region is experiencing its worst drought in 60 years. Food prices have skyrocketed. The world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab in Kenya, is several hundred thousand people over capacity. It is experiencing a death rate 15 times above what is normal.
Humanitarian access to the region is complicated by that fact that it is largely under the control of al Shabaab, an organization dedicated to overthrowing the internationally-backed Somali government. Further, Al Shabaan has not shied away from attacking humanitarian groups and the United Nations. As Chris wrote earlier, probably the only way the crisis can be mitigated is by working with al Shabaab to deliver relief to the stricken areas. (And al Shabaab has said they are willing to work with humanitarian groups that they have previously kicked out of the areas under their control.) The thing is, it is not unreasonable to expect that al Shabaab will skim a bit from the relief aid flowing through its territory.
All in all this is an awful political and security situation compounded by a huge humanitarian crisis. Children will literally waste away. If folks want to help, I recommend visiting the World Food Program. They are constantly underfunded and overworked.