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Group Calls For ‘Collective’ Action against Drought, Famine

Young Somali refugees read verses of the Koran from their prayer tablets at an outdoor madrasa at the Ifo camp outside Dadaab, Eastern Kenya, 100 kms (60 miles) from the Somali border, Aug. 9, 2011.

An official of the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) in Arusha is calling for a collective effort by member countries and the international community to help combat drought and famine in the region.

Bobi Odiko said the group aims to come up with long term measures to ensure East Africa becomes food sufficient.

“As an assembly we are quite concerned about and empathize with the situation in the region,” said Odiko. “We are calling on East Africans themselves and also the international community to put together efforts in terms of support to find lasting solutions to this famine.”

He also adds that countries in the Horn of Africa often stricken by drought should “plan effectively” to combat the recurring problem.

The United Nations says more than 12 million people in the region are in urgent need of food aid. The Horn is experiencing the worst drought in six decades.

In Somalia, where the situation is the most dire, the U.N. says over 3.2 million people are estimated to be on the brink of starvation.

Odiko said there is need for improved agricultural practices to help resolve the problem.

“You find out that we are still using the [traditional methods] of [farming]. We need to modernize the crop production system [and also] have better storage systems to [improve] our food security,” said Odiko.

He said EALA will continue to work with member states to meet the needs of people affected by the drought and famine.

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and some humanitarian relief groups have called for improved security following the abrupt withdrawal of the Islamic militant group, al-Shabab, from the capital, Mogadishu. They say the presence of additional peacekeepers will help protect relief workers from attacks.

Odiko echoed similar sentiments and urged countries in the region to contribute more troops to help improve security in Somalia.

“We support any initiative that goes a long way in providing security, especially for [aid] workers,” said Odiko. ”As EALA, we are going to join in the appeal to our members to see what can be done.”

VOA correspondents Peter Heinlein and Gabe Joselow reported this past week from Mogadishu, Somalia, about the humanitarian situation there. Watch some of the pictures they took during his stay.