We continue to scramble here – believe me, we are scrambling – the sheer volume of work taking place is staggering.  In the meantime, please understand that as bad as things are at the moment, the relief effort MUST be done right because a) things are about to get much worse and b) they will stay worse, at least until December.  We are trying not to sacrifice productive efforts to address the next 3-5 months in this region.  To illustrate, two maps.  The first is a map of current conditions:

As you can see, the two affected areas in southern Somalia (the Bakool agropastoral livelihood zones and all areas of Lower Shabelle) are highlighted.  These are currently the only places where we have hit levels of suffering high enough to be labeled famine.  Everywhere labeled “emergency” is pretty dire, but not a famine.  Unfortunately, this situation has acquired momentum – as FEWS-NET summarizes:

The total failure of the October-December Deyr rains (secondary season) and the poor performance of the April-June Gu rains (primary season) have resulted in crop failure, reduced labor demand, poor livestock body conditions, and excess animal mortality.  The resulting decline in cereal availability and ongoing trade restrictions have subsequently pushed local cereal prices to record levels and substantially reduced household purchasing power in all livelihood zones.

In other words, there is little local food available, no real jobs to earn money to buy imported food, and the livestock are dying, meaning livestock owners cannot sell them off for food (and they are not so great for eating once they get emaciated enough to die).  This means that the resources people normally use to address challenges such as we are seeing in Somalia right now are being drawn down very, very rapidly – they are running out of things to sell, and therefore things to eat.  On top of all of this, we cannot get in to these areas with our aid – so we cannot do anything, at the moment, to stop this backslide.  The result is reflected in this map:

This reflects FEWS-NET’s projections for the outcomes of this backslide in August/September.  As you can see, all of southern Somalia will soon fall into famine conditions.  If we cannot get in there before then, our interventions will not be as effective as they could be . . . it is much easier to fight a small fire than to put out a burning house.

An interesting thing to note from these maps (I will post on this at length soon) – they show the importance of development.  Where we could do development work (Ethiopia and Kenya), we do not have famine.  Yes, things are dire, but nowhere near as dire as in Somalia, where we have not been able to work for two decades.  The fact that things are dire in Kenya and Ethiopia means that development doesn’t work well enough . . . but it does work, at least a little.