The UN officially declared famine in two southern Somalia regions Wednesday as the world slowly mobilised to save 12 million people battling hunger in the region's worst drought in 60 years.
UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden declared that southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions had been hit by famine.
In total, the UN said an estimated 3.7 million people -- or nearly half of the war-torn country's population -- were facing a food crisis.
"If we don't act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks," Bowden told reporters in neighbouring Kenya.
The Economist this week notes that the situation may well be as bad in Eritrea, but it is even more difficult to get information from there than from Somalia.
True to form, the Eritrean government is mostly keeping mum on food shortages. Since winning independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year civil war, the country has changed from a poster child for liberty to Africa’s most autocratic and reclusive country. Ethiopian officials claim that almost half of Eritrea’s 5.3m inhabitants are in need of food assistance, though that is likely to be an exaggeration. The hungriest bits of the country are in the Danakil depression, where nothing grows and only small numbers of Afar nomads live. It is the harvest in the highlands that really matters; the Eritrean government insists that people there have enough food.