News / Africa

Emergency Meeting Held on Horn of Africa Famine and Drought

Two Somali children suffering from malnutrition lie at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) near Mogadishu airport, July 2011.
Two Somali children suffering from malnutrition lie at a camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP) near Mogadishu airport, July 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

The international community held an emergency meeting in Rome Monday on the famine and drought in the Horn of Africa. Representatives from the G20, U.N. agencies and NGOs warned the crisis could spread if action is not taken now.

In parts of Somalia, drought, high food prices and conflict have combined to bring famine.

“Famine is not a word we use lightly. The last time we did so in Somalia was 19 years ago,” said Valarie Amos is U.N. Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

She added, “Famine reflects extreme food shortages, severe malnutrition on a massive scale and spiraling mortality rates. We must respond now before thousands more lose their lives. This is the gravest food crisis in the world and the numbers are getting worse.”

The U.N. estimates the food crisis in the Horn of Africa is affecting 12 million people.

While famine has been declared in two Somali regions – Lower Shabelle and southern Bakool – Amos warns it could quickly spread to the rest of southern Somalia and neighboring countries.

“This will not be a short crisis. The United Nations and its partners fully expect to be dealing with this situation for at least the next six months,” said Amos.

The urgency of the Somali situation was stressed by Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.

“The U.N. estimates that more than 3.5 million Somalis – the vast majority in the insurgent held areas – may starve to death unless emergency aid reaches them in the next few weeks,” he said.

Children’s famine

World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran saw firsthand the effects of what she calls “soaring malnutrition rates.” She says she toured drought ravaged areas in the Horn with Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who called the crisis “the children’s famine.”

Sheeran said, “I literally saw dozens of children who will not make it. And many of the mothers I talked to have had to leave children along the road, who were too weak to make it, and decide to try to save the others. Others died in their arms and they left them on the roadside.”

The World Food program is airlifting emergency supplies to the region. Parts of countries bordering Somalia are also in crisis, although famine has not been declared there. Not yet.

“This is not the first time the rains have failed. And it will not be the last. In this part of the world, drought is becoming ever more frequent. And with drought come hunger, desperation, disease and death,” said Kanayo Nwanze, head of IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Coping mechanisms

Nwanze said many people around the world are no longer able to cope with recurring droughts and floods, which he blames on climate change. He says greater food resilience is needed. This includes using drought resistant seeds and crops, better water management and agricultural methods.

Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive Director of Oxfam Great Britain, agrees. She said long term solutions are needed to save pastoralists, many of whom have lost most or all of their livestock to drought. This includes the drilling of boreholes.

Stocking said bringing in emergency food supplies to stem hunger, malnutrition and starvation is vitally important.  But there’s something else that can be done, as well.

“If you want to feed people today, the best way to do that is actually to provide them with cash or vouchers for food that they can buy food right now. And this is perfectly possible even in Somalia. After all, Somalia is a country that has $2 billion a year coming into it in remittances and a whole system of means in which money can get into the hands of people,” she said.

World Food Program chief Sheeran says the crisis in the Horn of Africa would have been even worse if not for the early warning system and quick response programs established over the years. The worst areas now, she says, are those not covered by that safety net.

“This crisis demonstrates how critical global, regional, national and community action [are] on food security from sustainable increases in food production to eradicating the scourge of hunger and malnutrition permanently from the human experience. I truly believe this is doable.

Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf says the “catastrophic situation requires massive international support,” including bolstering the agricultural sector and investing in rural development.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs