NAIROBI, Kenya - 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, officials told the Associated Press.
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.
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 same militants have also made the task of figuring out an accurate death toll extremely difficult.
A Western official briefed on the new report - the most authoritative to date - told the AP that it says 260,000 people died and that half of the victims were age 5 and under. Two other international officials briefed on the report confirmed that the toll was in the quarter-million range. All three insisted they not be identified because they were not authorized to share the report's contents before it is officially released.
The report will be made public Thursday by FEWSNET, a famine early warning system funded by the U.S. government's aid arm, USAID, and by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit-Somalia, which is funded by the United States and Britain.
A previous estimate by the U.K. government said between 50,000 and 100,000 people died in the famine.