Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre says 110 people have lost their lives in a single region over the past 48 hours amid a drought that has ravaged the African country.
The newly appointed premier announced the shocking news during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee on Saturday, adding that all the deaths occurred in the southwestern region of Bay.
It was the first official death toll made public by Mogadishu since Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared the drought a “national disaster” on February 28.
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On February 27, the World Health Organization cautioned against the recurrence of a famine that starved 260,000 people to death across the country in 2011. The agency has said more than 6.2 million people need urgent humanitarian aid, including almost three million who are hungry.
According to the WHO, over 363,000 acutely malnourished children and 70,000 severely malnourished children need urgent, life-saving support.
The emerging famine has already forced thousands of people from across the country to stream into the capital, Mogadishu, in search of food, flooding local and international aid agencies.
In addition, the drought has led to a spread of acute, watery diarrhea, cholera and measles across various regions of the country. An estimated 5.5 million people are at risk of contracting waterborne diseases due to the lack of clean water in many areas.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently warned that some 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition could die this year of famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
The government has already warned that the widespread hunger “makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks.”
The UN’s humanitarian appeal for Somalia for 2017 is 864 million dollars. The money is needed to provide assistance to 3.9 million people, but additional funds are required to cope with the worsening situation, and in January, the UN World Food Programme launched a 26-million-dollar plan to respond to the drought there.
Previous droughts in addition to over two decades of conflict, including ongoing terrorist attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab Takfiri terrorist group, have left the country fragile.
Somalia is one of three countries, along with Yemen and Nigeria, on the verge of a full-blown famine. Overall, more than 20 million people face starvation in the four countries.