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

Multimedia Ferguson, Missouri Streets Calm After Days of Violence

Police official says authorities responded to fewer incidents, noting there were no shootings, Molotov cocktails or fires More

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

For Chanthy Sok, rap infused with Cambodian melodies is a way to pay respect to the survivors of the victims of Khmer Rouge genocide More

Study: Our Life with Neanderthals Was No Brief Affair

Scientists discover thousands of years of overlap between modern humans and their shorter, stockier cousins 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid