A drastic reduction in humanitarian assistance, widespread conflict and drought combined to make the 2011 famine in Somalia the most deadly in the past 25 years, a May 2013 study finds. Commissioned by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet), the study estimates that between October 2010 and April 2012, nearly five percent of the region’s population and 10 percent of its children died because of severe food shortages. The presence of al-Shabab, a group on the U.S. terrorist list, in famine affected areas made legal restrictions an issue for aid groups.
Between October 2010 and April 2012 the study estimated that 258,000 excess deaths occurred in southern and central Somalia, “of which 52% (133,000) among children under 5 years old.” [p. 8] That represents over 17 percent of children under the age of five.
The positive impact of humanitarian response can have is noted in the improvements in food security in Somalia in 2012. In addition to better rains and crops, the study said “improve access to parts of Somalia (i.e. Mogadishu) and the scale-up of relief wherever access was possible, including by a variety of non-traditional donors and actors, is likely to have made a considerable difference. Indeed, our model suggests strongly that humanitarian assistance was a critical modulator of the effects of food insecurity….” [p. 54]
The release of the report comes nearly a month after the U.S. announced that its sanctions on Somalia would continue with no easing of restrictions of humanitarian assistance to the country.