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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid