UNITED NATIONS - Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have lost their lives to famine that hit the Horn of Africa country in the past two years, half of them children under the age of five, the United Nations revealed Thursday, May 2.
"Warnings that began as far back as the drought in 2010 did not trigger sufficient early action," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement cited by Reuters.
A UN report says that nearly 260,000 Somalis have died of famine that ravaged their country from 2010 to 2012.
Half of those who lost their lives in the starvation were children under five, said the report, commissioned and funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) food security and nutrition analysis unit for Somalia (FSNAU) and the famine early warning systems network (Fewsnet).
"The report confirms we should have done more before the famine was declared," Lazzarini said.
Famine was declared in southern Somalia in 2011, which was under the control of the militant Shabaab group.
The famine, caused by a severe drought and fighting between rival groups, later spread to other areas in central Somalia and the capital Mogadishu, affecting more than 13 million people across the Horn of Africa.
The report shows that nearly 4.6 percent of the total population and 10 percent of children under five died in southern and central Somalia.
In Lower Shebelle, nearly 18 percent of children under five died of starvation and nearly 17 percent of children died of famine in Mogadishu.
"In the worst-affected areas, access to people in need was tremendously difficult," Lazzarini said.
"It suggests that what occurred in Somalia was one of the worst famines in the last 25 years.
Officials describe the consequences of the famine in Somalia as a human tragedy'.
"We now have a picture of the true enormity of this human tragedy, said Mark Smulders, a senior economist for the FAO.
"Lessons drawn from this experience will help the international community, together with the people of the region, build a stronger and more resilient future."
International humanitarian organizations called for measures to avoid a repeat of mistakes that led to the famine in Somalia.
"Famines are not natural phenomena, they are catastrophic political failures," Oxfam said in a statement cited by CNN.
"The world was too slow to respond to stark warnings of drought, exacerbated by conflict in Somalia, and people paid with their lives.
These deaths could and should have been prevented, and such a shocking death toll must never be allowed to happen again."
Somalia has been making a slow recovery and a new federal government is now in place in Mogadishu, but diplomats say the gains are fragile.
Restoring order and rebuilding the economy are seen as vital to preventing a return to the war and anarchy of the past two decades that made Somalia a base for piracy in the Indian Ocean and a regional launchpad for militants.
"We have been working with our partners to change the way we operate," Lazzarini said, adding that this involved better coordination between agencies providing health services, clean water and other support to improve resilience against future disasters.
Somalia has lacked an effective government since the ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.More than 14 attempts to restore a functional government have since failed.