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CDC Analysis Supports Declaration of Famine and Humanitarian Disaster in Somalia

Photo: DFID Kenya / Amanda Rose
Photo: Children climb in a tree, in one of the Dadaab refugee camps, north-east Kenya.
Photo: Department for International Development

A famine is defined in part by population-wide death rates greater than 2 deaths per 10,000 people per day and global acute malnutrition exceeding 30%. The cause of the famine in Somalia is attributed to severe drought, conflict in the region and lack of access by assistance organizations to the famine-stricken areas. CDC assisted in the declaration of famine by reviewing and verifying data from 11 surveys of the affected population. CDC specifically verified that the population-wide death rate was above the famine threshold in two of 5 regions and that global acute malnutrition exceeded the 30% threshold in 9 of the 11 areas surveyed.

The large number of refugees fleeing the famine in Somalia in search of food and safety face a number of factors that could make this a humanitarian disaster on a scale rarely seen. Public health officials are concerned about the ongoing transmission of measles compounded by low immunization rates and the vulnerability of malnourished children and adults, and limited access to Somalia by aid organizations.

Current CDC priorities include improving access to food, immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases like measles due to outbreaks in Somalia and Kenya, and water sanitation services. CDC staff members in Kenya are monitoring disease outbreaks and providing other support for the humanitarian response in collaboration with Office of the United Nations' High Commissioner of Refugees.

Two of CDC's programs work closely with United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations that provide support and care to refugees. CDC's international emergency and refugee health program improves the health of people around the world affected by war, disaster, famine, civil strife, genocide, drought, or displacement. CDC's immigrant, refugee, and migrant health program promotes the health of refugees who will be resettling in the United States, preventing the importation of infectious diseases. Together these programs are supporting this important humanitarian effort.

More Information

*FSNAU is a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Commission and implemented by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

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  • Page last reviewed: July 22, 2011
  • Page last updated: July 28, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs