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Somali famine far worse than thought, report says

Somali children lined up for food in Mogadishu in August 2011. Half of the victims were 5 and under.

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP file

Somali children lined up for food in Mogadishu in August 2011. Half of the victims were 5 and under.

NAIROBI — The 2011 Somali famine killed an estimated 260,000 people, half of them age 5 and under, according to a new report to be published this week that more than doubles previous death toll estimates.

The aid community believes that tens of thousands of people died needlessly because the international community was slow to respond to early signs of approaching hunger in East Africa in late 2010 and early 2011.

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The toll was also exacerbated by extremist militants from al-Shabab who banned food aid deliveries to the areas of south-central Somalia that they controlled. Those militants have also made an accurate death toll difficult.

A previous estimate set the toll at 50,000 to 100,000. A Western official said the new report found that 260,000 people died, and that half were age 5 and under; two other international officials confirmed that the toll was in the quarter-million range. All insisted they not be identified because they were not authorized to share the report’s contents before it is released.

The report is being made public Thursday by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit — Somalia.

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