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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
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.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs