U.N. declares famine in Somalia

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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The United Nations today formally declared a famine in parts of Somalia. The last time it did that, was more than 30 years ago in Ethiopia in the 1980s. There is anarchy in Somalia. The U.S. provided humanitarian support there in the 90s, but that proved very, very difficult. And today, the U.S. government is reluctant to provide aid because of the presence of al-Qaida. Nevertheless, the U.N. says it needs hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming weeks.

David Orr is spokesman for the U.N.'s World Food Programme and he's with us now from Nairobi, Kenya. Hi David.

DAVID ORR: Hello there.

CHIOTAKIS: What exactly does an official famine declaration do? Does that mean there's more funding going in?

ORR: It does mean there's more funding going in, in the sense that once the declaration of famine has been made it secures tremendous media attention and by consequence, lots of follow-up from donors and governments around the world. It has no direct legal implications, but it does bring tremendous publicity to a situation that has already been defined as an emergency.

CHIOTAKIS: I know Somalia is a failed state. What about the logistics of getting aid to those who are in need? How will the aid get there?

ORR: It will be difficult but not impossible and such is the humanitarian imperative here to save the lives of so many people. Once we secure the conditions that will allow us to operate in there in terms of security access, not only to deliver, but also to monitor the distribution of food, then I think things will become a lot easier. And nothing has been ruled out. We're looking at everything from across-border deliveries to airdrops at the moment.

CHIOTAKIS: David Orr with the World Food Programme in Nairobi. David thank you.

ORR: You're welcome.

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