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Somalia famine over, UN says, but Sahel food crisis worsens

Famine conditions in Somalia have ended, but a serious emergency situation remains in the war-torn nation, while the UN is also concerned about a growing food crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa.

Somalia famine over 2012 02 03Enlarge
Women displaced from southern Somalia by famine sit in a camp for internally displaced people in Mogadishu waiting for aid supplies. The UN on Feb. 3, 2012, said that famine conditions have ended in Somalia, six months after first being declared. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Somalia's famine is over six months after being declared, due to a good harvest and significant humanitarian aid, the UN said today.

The latest harvest in Somalia, helped by good rains, was double that of the average over the past 17 years, and this has lowered food prices, Reuters reported.

But while famine conditions have ended according to the official definition, a serious emergency situation remains in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, with millions still relying on assistance.

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"The gains are fragile and will be reversed without continued support," Mark Bowden, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, told Agence France-Presse.

The UN declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia last July. The famine warning was later extended to six of the country's eight regions.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have died during the famine, according to the UN. Mortality rates in Somalia are already among the highest in the world.

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Meanwhile, in the Sahel region of west Africa, experts are warning of a looming food crisis that threatens millions of people. 

"We must not wait until people are starving in order to act. The world must respond immediately to avert a full-scale food and nutrition crisis," Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, told reporters in Accra, Ghana, AFP reported.

The crisis, linked to drought, poor harvests and rising food prices, has so far affected Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

There are concerns over Burkina Faso, Senegal and northern parts of Nigeria and Cameroon, De Schutter told AFP. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120203/somalia-famine-over-sahel-food-crisis-warning%3Fv%3D1.1