News / Africa

East Africa’s Drought Brings Triangle of Hunger And Questions

Somalis carrying their belongings wait outside an internally displaced camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, after they fleeing from southern Somalia due to lack of food and water, July 5, 2011
Somalis carrying their belongings wait outside an internally displaced camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, after they fleeing from southern Somalia due to lack of food and water, July 5, 2011
Nico Colombant

Analysts and aid workers say a lack of proper forecasting, skyrocketing food prices, marginalized populations, extreme poverty and insecurity have turned the severe drought in East Africa into a humanitarian disaster.  

The disaster response coordinator for British-based Plan International, Unni Krishnan, is one of many among aid agency workers raising the alarm on the severity of the current situation. "As we speak today, more than 10 million people in East Africa are going through one of the worst crises in living memory and this is one of the worst droughts in the last, more than 50 years.  And children are in desperate need of food, nutrition, water and other life-supporting mechanisms. We need to act now. The situation is very, very bad," said Krishnan.

Aid workers say this year’s failed wet season has created a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet. Parts of Djibouti and Uganda have also been affected.

In Somalia, aid workers say the effects of the drought have been compounded by rising food prices, estimated at more than 200 percent in the last year, ongoing conflict, and nearly inexistent health systems.

It is estimated that one in three children in southern Somalia is severely malnourished. Thousands of Somalis are reported to be fleeing into Kenya and Ethiopia on a daily basis.  Many of the drought victims were previously displaced.

More than two million young children in East Africa are reported to be malnourished, and a half million are estimated to be in need of urgent life -saving actions.

For Krishnan from Plan International, it is a sad reminder that much more needs to be done to prevent droughts from turning into disasters. “Droughts, they are a recurring phenomenon in the region, so this needs long term vision and long term responses.  We are afraid that this response is not going to be a 100-meter sprint, this is going to be a marathon race.  It is important to look at long-term disaster risk reduction measures, dealing with issues of agriculture. There are new technologies that are in place where agriculture is possible with limited water but unfortunately that is not available for that part of Africa," said Krishnan.

Krishnan says dealing with conflict, poverty, the lack of infrastructure and education are part of the solution.

Other aid workers stress more farmers should turn to resilient crops such as millet and sorghum, and also install rain harvesting tanks and drip irrigation schemes.

The co-author of a recent book about droughts, Eric Wood, from Princeton University, has also been working with UNESCO, the UN educational, scientific and cultural agency, on an experimental African drought monitoring system.

He says once it is up and running, hopefully starting in December with a base in Niger, the system could also be very important. “For central governments, for regional institutions, for external agencies like USAID, I think that they need to see large-scale patterns.  What you may see at a very local scale just may not be representative and so I think that is important to offer a regional to continental scale.  Our hope down the road is in fact to combine the monitoring part with in fact a seasonal forecasting part.”

Wood says the system could forecast severe droughts up to three months in advance, allowing for more effective disaster planning.  

The forecasting could also help African farmers deal with increasingly erratic rain patterns.

Currently, though, many aid workers, like Nicholas Wasunna, with the aid group World Vision Kenya, are expressing enormous frustration. “We need to do much more, especially in disaster risk reduction.  We need to make disaster risk reduction a political priority and invest accordingly because these scenes we should never see again.  The reality is drought will continue to be with us, but we need to do much more, much sooner," he said.

Wasunna spoke from the home of an increasingly malnourished elderly man who has been staying in bed all day inside his makeshift tent in northeast Kenya, after the drought killed all his cattle.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs