Mitchell fears 400k child deaths on Somalia visit

By staff

Andrew Mitchell has warned that 400,000 people face starvation in the Horn of Africa, on the first visit to Somalia by a British minister for 18 years.

The international development secretary held talks with prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed, visited a camp for internally displaced person and met British-backed UN and NGO partners on his trip to the country.

Over 50% of the population is affected by the famine. Some areas are seeing the same severe malnutrition rates as those seen in the 1991/92 famine, in which 200,000 people died.

A £25 million package of support for children, which will provide up to 192,000 people with extra rations, supplies to vaccinate 800,000 children against measles and support for malaria preparedness is being provided by Britain.

"This is a race against time," Mr Mitchell said.

"That is why we are providing this crucial package of support aimed at children, which comes on top of earlier UK support to the region – and the generous help given by the British public through the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal.

"Other countries must also maintain and increase their support at this crucial stage. Or we risk seeing a whole generation of people decimated by starvation and disease – and further instability across the region."

Somalia has been without a properly functioning government since the early 1990s. In recent years it has become a safe haven for pirates attacking commercial shipping in the region and grown as a concern among terrorism experts.