A bit of good news – and just a bit -- emerged from the Horn of Africa recently when a United Nations study team determined that famine conditions have eased in three hard-hit areas of Somalia. The humanitarian situation there remains very serious, though, and three other areas, including locations in the capital, Mogadishu, that host internally displaced people have improved, but remain classified as famine.
The improvements are largely the result of the outpouring of humanitarian aid, which has significantly increased household access to food and contributed to a drop in mortality levels. The United States is greatly encouraged by the international community's response efforts and the impact they have had in saving lives.
It is clear, though, that the crisis is far from over and the needs are still great. While the number of people at risk of starvation has fallen, the number of those in need of humanitarian aid remains at roughly 4 million. Any decline in the level of international aid, increase in conflict, or new disruptions to aid access or trade could allow famine conditions to reappear. Mortality is expected to remain high there during the rains of the next six months in any event, driven by diseases such as measles, diarrhea and malaria.
Our nation remains committed to reaching more people and supporting the humanitarian commitment to the Horn of Africa well into 2012. An additional $100 million will be provided, mainly in food aid assistance for those affected by conflict and drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. In all, more than $750 million has been directed to the region to meet these ongoing and urgent humanitarian needs.