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Famine Threatens Parts of Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Zlatica Hoke

Many parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas are scorching in heat caused by a cyclical phenomenon known as El Niño. The unusually warm waters that come up to the surface in the Pacific Ocean every three to six years cause extreme weather conditions. The resulting drought is especially hard on the poorest people of sub-Saharan Africa.

Somaliland is one of the poorest African regions. Its rural population is struggling to make a living in the best of times, but drought makes it impossible.

"I am 80. In the 80 years of my life, I've never seen such severe drought. It has killed so many animals and caused so much famine. Our lives are in danger," said Mohamed Omar, a farmer.

The situation is similar in the neighboring Puntland region and parts of Ethiopia. The United Nations last month called for urgent aid to save 1.7 million people in the affected parts of Somalia.

"Communities are losing their means for survival, and we need to stop this loss of lives and forced displacement as people have no other option than to move in search of food, water and income," said Peter de Clercq, a U.N. humanitarian coordinator.

But when there is no food and water for miles and miles around, moving may be futile. Some Ethiopian farmers have crossed the border to try to escape famine.

"The drought has been raging for three years in Ethiopia. We were told that there were pastures on the other side of the border. But when we got here, we found nothing," said farmer Hawo Rayab.

Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country, is in the grip of its worst drought in decades. The government is appealing for aid to help 10 million affected people.

The food shortage is also grave in Malawi, which has not yet recovered from last year's record flooding.

"Before the floods, my child was doing well. But after we lost our crops, my child got sick and became malnourished. That is what made me come to this hospital for treatment and food," said Liza Fatchi, a Malawian woman.

Malawi's president has declared a state of national disaster. But the food crisis in parts of Africa could get worse yet.

“The peak of the crisis is still to come. So, I think we will see the situation getting worse before it will get better. We talk about maybe a small improvement around mid-2016 or shortly after this," said Echo Ethiopia’s Johan Heffinck.

Experts say people in the affected areas depend on aid to survive and are calling for an urgent step-up of humanitarian efforts.

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