LONDON (AlertNet) - The food crisis in Somalia is no longer at emergency levels but the needs remain "huge” and it will take at least two years for the country to recover, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.
Malnutrition rates in some areas of the drought-hit Horn of Africa country have improved, the ICRC said, but the charity warned an ongoing conflict between the Kenyan army and Islamist al Shabaab rebels could precipitate the situation.
“The food crisis (in Somalia) has probably now stopped,” Daniel Duvillard, head of operations for the ICRC in the Horn of Africa, told AlertNet. “There are still huge needs of course. Rains were quite good but one good harvest won’t solve the problem for the Somali people,
“In some areas you can see there has been an improvement in terms of malnutrition rates. The only question mark is the impact of the military offensive against al Shabaab now but it is too early to assess,” he said.
A deadly combination of war and drought has left the chaotic nation at the epicentre of a hunger crisis affecting 13 million people across the Horn of Africa. Tens of thousands of Somalis have died from famine, which was declared in July.
Duvillard said Somalia is approaching the end of the famine but that the poor African nation is on a long path to recovery.
“People want to know when is the end of the famine and so on… I think we are approaching the end now,” Duvillard said. “I think we need at least two years…to come back to a situation in which people can fulfill their basic needs.”
“We have to maintain the aid effort as it is and you will see the malnutrition rates improve.”
The ICRC – one of few relief agencies that are still allowed to operate in the country - earlier this month suspended food distribution to 1.1 million people in central and southern Somalia after al Shabaab blocked deliveries.
"The suspension will continue until we receive assurances from the authorities controlling those areas that distributions can take place unimpeded and reach all those in need, as previously agreed," Patrick Vial, head of the ICRC delegation for Somalia, said in a statement.
The rebels, who are hostile to Western intervention in the lawless country, outlawed 16 relief agencies in November.
Somalia has been mired in anarchy since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
A joint report by Oxfam and Save the Children said last Wednesdsay that thousands of people in the Horn of Africa died needlessly last year because of the slow response to early warning signs.