Delay announced as UN says three new regions are “famine zones” and all regions in country’s south are vulnerable.
At least seven Somalis, among them refugees, have been killed in a firefight in Mogadishu after troops and residents looted vehicles carrying food meant for famine victims, witnesses say.
The witnessess said government troops fired shots and fought among themselves as they looted maize and oil in the Somali capital on Friday.
Earlier, one witness said he saw a soldier killed and dozens of refugees wounded at Badbaado camp, home to about 30,000 refugees.
“At least 10 people died and 15 others were wounded,” Aden Kusow, himself a refugee, told the Reuters news agency from Badbaado camp.
“Seven of those died in the camp. The other three died outside as they fled. Most of those who died are refugees.”
About 100,000 refugees have reached Mogadishu in the last two months and hundreds more are streaming into the city, hoping to escape the brunt of the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in decades.
News of the firefight came as Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, called for the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to hold an emergency meeting on the famine in Somalia.
Millions at risk
The call for the meeting, which would also deal with the risks that the famine poses to other African countries, follows the postponement until August 25 of an African Union conference on the Horn of Africa nation.
“It doesn’t matter whether the meeting is held in Istanbul or Jeddah. We want OIC to step in as soon as possible. We want to meet the needs of our African brothers in Ramadan month,” Davutoglu said in Ankara after Friday prayers.
He said he had made the request on Thursday to Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC secretary-general, a fellow Turk.
Mapping the spread of the Somalia famine
He said that his ministry would organise a visit to Ethiopia and South Africa later this month.
“We may add other countries, including Kenya, in light of recent developments. We are planning the visit to take place after August 15, maybe around August 20,” Davutoglu said.
Up to 3.7 million Somalis are at risk of starvation, the majority of them in the south of the country, according to the UN food arm, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
US officials say that the famine in Somalia, which has been in a state of anarchy for two decades, has killed more than 29,000 children in the last 90 days.
The UN has declared three new regions in Somalia famine zones, making a total of five regions affected by famine thus far in the country. The UN had said last month two regions were suffering from famine.
FAO said that famine was likely to spread across all regions of Somalia’s south in the next four to six weeks.
Famine, as defined by the UN, refers to situations when at least 20 per cent of households face food shortages so severe that they are unable to cope with it and more than two people out of 10,000 people die daily.
The UN says 3.2 million are in need of immediate, life-saving assistance.
Worst drought in decades
About 450,000 people live in Somalia’s famine zones, according to Grainne Moloney, chief technical adviser for the UN’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit at FAO-Somalia.
Somalia is suffering its worst drought in 60 years, but getting aid to the country has been difficult because al-Shabab fighters control much of the country’s most desperate areas.
“Despite increased attention in recent weeks, current humanitarian response remains inadequate, due in part to ongoing access restrictions and difficulties in scaling up emergency assistance programmes, as well as funding gaps,” the UN’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit said.
Speaking on Thursday, Jacob Kellenberger, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said: “Somalia is what you could call a typical ICRC context … It is an armed conflict, compounded by a very serious drought. It is an area where people are already weakened since long years.”
The ICRC has called upon donor nations to help double its Somalia budget to feed the more than one million people hit by famine in al-Shabab-controlled areas.
“Given the very serious, extremely worrying situation in the area, we came to the conclusion we had to increase very substantially our budget, which means our activities,” Kellenberger said.