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News Wrap: U.N. Declares Parts of Somalia in Famine Amid Drought

July 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The United Nations declared today that parts of Somalia are officially in famine, the worst in a generation. It comes amid searing drought and ongoing battle against militants.

We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

Be advised, some of the images are disturbing.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: It’s the world’s worst humanitarian emergency, and these are its starving children, the statistics coming out of Somalia now so appalling that nobody wants to believe them.

MARK BOWDEN, United Nations Humanitarian coordinator: What we are seeing is that — extremely high rates of malnutrition, up to 50 percent in some cases. That means half of the children are acutely malnourished, which is unbelievable.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: The U.N. says tens of thousands of Somalis, most of them children, have died in the last three months, and that the famine will spread across all of southern Somalia in the next two months without more aid — 3.7 million Somalis — that’s over half the population — are in urgent need of help. The U.N. has less than half the money it has asked for. That’s $596 million short.

These Islamist militants are partly to blame. The Al-Shabab have forced aid agencies out of the famine zone, and they have taxed aid that comes in.

The risk, of course, is that some of that aid will feed militants linked with al-Qaida. But the greater risk is that tens of thousands more Somali children will die without it. Hundreds of thousands died in the famine of 20 years ago, so it’s no wonder so many have trekked to vast refugee camps here in Kenya, where those who remember fear history will repeat itself.

MARY ROBINSON, Oxfam International: I have never been able to get Somalia out of my skin, if you like, since I was here in 1992. And when I look around and I see yet again — these are very resilient people and they want the best — they want just food and water.

JONATHAN RUGMAN: Ten thousand families have fled from Somalia’s famine to the capital, Mogadishu, in the last month alone, leaving their dead behind them, among them, Mina Mohammed. She says she walked for four days to get here and that two of her children died of hunger on the way.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. government has given about $460 million towards Somali relief this year, including $28 million announced today.

The state government shutdown in Minnesota officially ended today, after nearly three weeks. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed a new budget into law today. Lawmakers had worked into the early morning hours, in a special session, passing the required bills. The signing followed a deal between Dayton and Republicans controlling the legislature over taxes and spending.

GOV. MARK DAYTON, D-Minn.: I’m not entirely happy with this budget that I have just signed into law. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s the best option that is available and would be for any time.

HARI SREENIVASAN: During the shutdown, 22,000 state employees were furloughed, construction projects were halted, and parks were closed. Most state employees are expected back on the job tomorrow, but it is unclear when state operations will get back to normal.

The suspect in the mass shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, was arraigned today in military court. Army Major Nidal Hasan declined to enter a plea in the 2009 attack. He is charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. A military judge set his trial date for next March. Hasan could face the death penalty if convicted.

Police in Serbia have arrested the last fugitive wanted by the U.N.’s Balkan war crimes tribunal. Goran Hadzic was taken into custody in a northern village. And, by afternoon, he was hauled into court in Belgrade to arrange for his extradition. He faces an indictment for crimes against humanity, accused of ordering the killing of hundreds of Croats and non-Serbs between 1991 and 1995.

BORIS TADIC, president of Serbia (through translator): With this, Serbia has concluded its most difficult chapters in the cooperation with The Hague tribunal. Serbia will continue to fulfill its international duties. I want to confirm once again that, by arresting Goran Hadzic, our legal duties and the duties of the Republic of Serbia have been accomplished, as well as our moral duty.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Less than two months ago, Serbian authorities also captured Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general accused in the deaths of thousands of people. Now the arrest of Hadzic ends the long-running manhunt and could boost Serbia’s bid for membership into the European Union.

The biggest airline order in history is in the works. American Airlines announced today it plans to buy at least 460 new planes over the next five years; 260 new jets will come from the European manufacturer Airbus, and the rest from Boeing, for a total cost of around $38 billion. The new planes will have more efficient engines to help save on soaring fuel costs.

On Wall Street, stocks slipped a bit after a two-day rally. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 15 points to close below 12,572. The Nasdaq fell 12 points to close at 2,814.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.