Somali Refugees in Ethiopia
In 2011, Somalia faced a severe humanitarian crisis and the worst food security crisis in Africa since its famine 20 years ago. At least 3.7 million people – about half of Somalia's population – needed food, and around 3.2 million people were in extreme need of immediate, lifesaving aid because of drought and years of conflict. In neighbouring Ethiopia, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reported that 10 Somali children under the age of five were dying every day of hunger-related causes in Kobe refugee camp. The camp, one of four in the border town of Dollo Ado in south-east Ethiopia, opened in June when Somalis fleeing drought and conflict poured over the border in large numbers. Kobe reached its 25,000 capacity in a month, and while new arrivals from Somalia are being directed elsewhere the death toll is not slowing. UNHCR said the average of ten deaths a day stretched back to late June, meaning that at least 500 young children had died in less than two months.
Alhough the causes of continued exodus and growing death toll from the famine in Somalia are numerous – including drought, high food prices and the absence of a government for two decades – al Shabaab, the al-Qaida-linked Islamist movement has played a significant role. In 2009, al-Shabaab banned a number of aid groups, including the UN World Food Program, and millions of Somalis had no safety net when the drought conditions began to worsen early this year. In early July the rebels said all aid agencies would be allowed to assist with drought relief, but then backtracked after UN declared the famine in the parts of Somalia, denying the UN report and saying the earlier ban on certain organizations stood. A new report by Human Rights Watch confirmed that, in some areas, al-Shabaab militias had tried to prevent people from leaving to seek outside help, even those pushed close to death by hunger.