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More than 260,000 Somalians have died—half of them children—during the famine that struck the country between 2010 and 2012, according to a joint study released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the United States-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
“The crisis was caused by a severe drought, worsened by conflict between rival groups fighting for power,” BBC reported.
Tens of thousands of Somalians have fled the country to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia in an effort to find food and water.
“Somalians are walking as far as 50 miles to reach the Dadaab complex in eastern Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world. The trek can take weeks through punishing terrain, which is desolate except for the carcasses that litter the land,” ABC News reported. One mother was forced to leave one of her six children to die on the roadside because the child was too sickly to travel the 30-day journey to Kenya.
Further exacerbating the crisis was the terrorist group al-Shabab, which controls certain central and southern regions of Somalia. The militants blocked much-needed food deliveries and some have argued that if the international community had responded to the crisis sooner, any aid would have been thwarted by the Islamist organization.
Aid or not, “the scale of the disaster is stretching relief workers to their limits,” news.com.au reported. Jens Oppermann, the country director of Action Against Hunger, was quoted as saying, “We are no longer talking about a humanitarian crisis or a humanitarian emergency, we are seeing this as a humanitarian catastrophe.”