Harrowing reports of starvation and death as famine sweeps the region are a wake-up call we cannot ignore writes Ban Ki-moon
Across the Horn of Africa, people are starving. A catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought has left more than 11 million people in desperate need. The United Nations has been sounding the alert for months. We have resisted using the ''f-word'' - famine - but we have officially recognised the fast-evolving reality. There is famine in parts of Somalia. And it is spreading.
This is a wake-up call we cannot ignore. Every day, I hear the most harrowing reports from our UN teams on the ground. Somali refugees, their cattle and goats dead from thirst, walking for weeks to find help in Kenya and Ethiopia. Orphans who arrive alone, terrified and malnourished, in a foreign land.
From within Somalia, we hear terrible stories of families who watched their children die, one by one. One woman recently arrived at a UN displacement camp 140 kilometres south of Mogadishu after a three-week trek. Halima Omar, from the region of Lower Shebelle, was once considered well off. Today, after three years of drought, she barely survives. Four of her six children are dead. ''There is nothing in the world worse than watching your own child die in front of your eyes because you cannot feed him,'' she said of her ordeal. ''I am losing hope.''
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Ban Ki-moon is Secretary-General of the United Nations.
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