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Somalia food crisis 'worse than Darfur' -

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Somalia food crisis 'worse than Darfur'

The World Today - Tuesday, 17 June , 2008 12:30:00

Reporter: Ashley Hall

EMMA ALBERICI: Humanitarian workers say Somalia is at the centre of a perfect storm of events that
will plunge the country further into crisis.

The United Nation's humanitarian coordinator for the region says the number of people there in need
of emergency food aid is likely to climb to 3.5 million in coming months.

The impending disaster is being blamed on continued fighting between rival militias, drought,
rising food prices and the collapse of the Somali currency.

Ashley Hall reports.

ASHLEY HALL: There's been no rain in Somalia for many months, so people there are struggling to
grow their own food.

The country's tried to fill the gap with imports. But that's becoming increasingly more difficult
with global food prices soaring, and the local currency crumbling.

MARK BOWDEN: Somalia has suffered three years of drought, which have really reduced people's
stocks, made them extremely vulnerable. They've suffered more than anywhere else in the world by
food price rises.

The currency's collapsed and on top of that, there is a very, very high level of insecurity, which
has led to a massive displacement, almost a million people being displaced.

ASHLEY HALL: At one time, internal trade within Somalia allowed the country to be largely
self-sufficient in food.

But over the past decade, political instability has drastically undermined the nation's
agricultural sector.

Now, the United Nation's Humanitarian Coordinator for the region, Mark Bowden, has told the BBC the
food crisis in Somalia is getting dramatically worse, with nearly half the population threatened
with malnutrition.

MARK BOWDEN: Our latest assessment suggests that while there are about 2.5 million people in need
of assistance in Somalia at the moment, that could go up within the next couple of months to 3.5
million.

ASHLEY HALL: Mr Bowden says he's worried that there is now a sense of fatalism about what's
happening in Somalia.

A senior researcher in Human Rights Watch's Africa division Chris Albin-Lackey argues that's
exactly what's happened.

CHRIS ALBIN-LACKEY: Unfortunately that's led to a sense that some degree of chaos and bloodshed in
Somalia is just the norm and the status quo and people have become some inured to that that it's
actually very difficult to make people wake up and realise that what's unfolding right now in
Somalia is a human tragedy that's far, far worse, potentially, than anything that's been seen over
the past two decades.

ASHLEY HALL: In 2006, members of local Islamic Courts formed a coalition which took control of much
of southern Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu.

Mr Albin-Lackey says the Council of Islamic Courts briefly brought stability to the region. But the
group was accused of harbouring the terrorists responsible for the 1998 bombings of the US
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

CHRIS ALBIN-LACKEY: The United States made a priority out of ensuring those people weren't in a
position of responsibility in any hypothetical Somalia Government. And in seeing them crushed under
another power, the Ethiopian Government had the same interests which led the US to support the
Ethiopians to invade the country. At various points, the US has also backed, discredited warlords
with a long history of bloody atrocities in their past for the simple reason that they were willing
to fight the terrorist elements that US was after.

ASHLEY HALL: The UN's warning on Somalia coincided with the publication of a report on Africa's
progress, which found the world food crisis threatens to destroy years, if not decades of economic
progress, and push 100 million people back into absolute poverty.

Ahead of next month's G8 Summit in Japan, the chairman of the Africa Progress Panel, Kofi Annan,
called for international action to deal with the problem.

The report found a shortfall of more than $40 billion in aid that needs to be filled if the G8 is
to meet aid targets set in 2005. But Mr Annan says African nations must also take a role.

KOFI ANNAN: We should be responsible for our own destiny. We should take our future in our own
hands. It is only us, the Africans, who can develop Africa.

ASHLEY HALL: It seems like Mr Annan has found a sympathetic ear in the US President.

George W. Bush says he'll push for more aid for Africa when he sits down with world leaders next
month.

GEORGE W. BUSH: My message at the G8 is looking forward to working with you, thanks for coming to
the meeting. Just remember there are people needlessly dying on the on the continent of Africa
today and we expect you to more than pledge-makers, we expect to be cheque-writers.

EMMA ALBERICI: US President George W. Bush, ending that report by Ashley Hall.