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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More