Category: "Food Shortage"

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's plea: We can't allow Somalia to starve

July 22nd, 2011

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's plea: We can't allow Somalia to starve

More than 11 million people are suffering. To turn the tide, to offer hope in the name of our common humanity, we must mobilize worldwide, Ban Ki-moon says.

By Ban Ki-moon

LA Times

July 22, 2011
Across the Horn of Africa, people are starving. A catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought has left more than

11 million people in desperate need. The United Nations has been sounding the alert for months. We have resisted using the "F-word" — famine — but on Wednesday, we officially recognized the fast-evolving reality. There is famine in parts of Somalia. And it is spreading.

This is a wake-up call we cannot ignore. Every day I hear the harrowing reports from our U.N. teams on the ground. Somali refugees, their cattle and goats dead from thirst, walking for weeks to find help in Kenya and Ethiopia. Children who arrive alone, terrified and malnourished, their parents dead, in a foreign land.

From within Somalia, we hear terrible stories of families who watched helplessly as their children died, one by one. One woman recently arrived at a U.N. displacement camp 87 miles southwest of Mogadishu after a three-week trek. Halima Omar, from the region of Lower Shabelle, was once considered well-off. Today, after three years of drought, she barely survives. Four of her six children are dead.

"There is nothing in the world worse than watching your own child die in front of your eyes because you cannot feed him," she said of her ordeal. "I am losing hope."

Even for those who reach the camps, there is often no hope. Many are simply too weak after long journeys across the arid land and die before they can be nursed back to strength. For people who need medical attention, there are often no medicines. Imagine the pain of those doctors, who must watch their patients perish for lack of resources.

As a human family, these stories shock us. We ask: How is this happening again? After all, the world has enough food. And yes, economic times are hard. Yet since time immemorial, amid even the worst austerity, the compassionate impulse to help our fellow human beings has never wavered.

That is why I reach out today: to focus global attention on this crisis, to sound the alarm and to call on the world's people to help Somalia in this moment of greatest need. To save the lives of the people at risk — the vast majority of them women and children — we need about $1.6 billion in aid. So far, international donors have given only half that amount. To turn the tide, to offer hope in the name of our common humanity, we must mobilize worldwide.

This means everyone. I appeal to all nations — both those that fund our work year in and year out, and those that do not traditionally give through the multinational system — to step up to the challenge. On July 25, in Rome, U.N. agencies will gather to coordinate our emergency response and to raise funds for immediate assistance.

Meanwhile, we must all ask ourselves, as individual citizens, how we can help. This might mean private donations, as in previous humanitarian emergencies in Indonesia after the tsunami or Haiti after the earthquake, or it could mean pushing elected representatives toward a more robust response. Even in the best of circumstances, this may not be enough. There is a real danger we cannot meet all the needs.

The situation is particularly difficult in Somalia. The ongoing conflict there complicates any relief effort. More broadly, sharply rising food prices have stretched the budgets of international agencies and NGOs. Operating conditions are complicated by the fact that the transitional national government of Somalia controls only a portion of the capital, Mogadishu. We are working on an agreement with the forces of Shabab, an Islamist militia group, to grant access to areas of the country that they control. Even so, serious security concerns remain.

We must also recognize that Kenya and Ethiopia, which have generously kept their borders open, face enormous challenges of their own. The largest refugee camp in the world, Dadaab, in Kenya, is already dangerously overcrowded with some 380,000 refugees. Many thousands more are waiting to be registered. In neighboring Ethiopia, 2,000 people a day are arriving at the Dolo refugee camp, also struggling to keep pace. This compounds a food crisis faced by almost 7 million Kenyans and Ethiopians at home. In Djibouti and Eritrea, tens of thousands of people are also in need — and potentially many more.

Even as we respond to this immediate crisis, we need to find ways to deal with underlying causes. Today's drought may be the worst in decades. But with the effects of climate change being increasingly felt throughout the world, it surely will not be the last. This means practical measures: drought-resistant seeds, irrigation, rural infrastructure, livestock programs.

These projects can work. Over the last 10 years, they have helped boost agricultural production in Ethiopia by 8% a year. We have also seen improvements in our early warning systems. We knew this drought was coming and began issuing warnings in November. Looking ahead, we must ensure that such warnings are heard in time.

Above all, we need peace. As long as there is conflict in Somalia, we cannot effectively fight famine. More and more children will go hungry; more and more people will needlessly die. And this cycle of insecurity is growing dangerously wide.

In Somalia, Halima Omar told us: "Maybe this is our fate — or maybe a miracle will happen and we will be saved from this nightmare."

I cannot accept this as her fate. Together, we must rescue her and her countrymen and all their children from a truly terrible nightmare.

Ban Ki-moon is secretary-general of the United Nations.

UN declares famine in Somalia

July 21st, 2011

UN declares famine in Somalia

Tens of thousands of people have already died in Somalia as the UN declares an official famine. A key figure leading the African Union's efforts tells Channel 4 News "we'll be burying children soon".

It is hoped the famine declaration could signal to donors the need for more aid, as well as demonstrating to insurgents in the country that the international community is taking the population's suffering seriously.

In all, more than 10m people are affected by the drought across the Horn of Africa, including almost 3 million in Somalia. One in three children is suffering from malnutrition, the UN says.

Read More from Channel 4 News

Is Eritrea hiding a looming humanitarian crisis?

July 19th, 2011
Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson

Is Eritrea hiding a looming humanitarian crisis?

The United States said, the number of people needing emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa region is now more than 11 million people. In Ethiopia, at least 4.5 million people are in need of assistance. Almost 3 million people need assistance in Somalia and an estimated 3.6 million people have been affected in Kenya. Others include Djibouti, Eritrea Sudan and Uganda.

Speaking at State Department briefing on the crisis in the Horn of Africa region, Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, accused the Eritrean regime of failing to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its own people. He said, "Many of these most recent refugees are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition, and there may be many more in need of assistance in Eritrea, where a repressive regime fails to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its own people. The free flow of information is what allows people to make early choices that can help avert catastrophe. We urge the Government of Eritrea to cooperate with the UN agencies and other international organizations to address the issue of hunger and food shortage in that country."

In the briefing Al Jazeera journalist asked Mr. Carson about the situation in Eritrea and here is the excerpt

QUESTION: Camille Elhassani from Al-Jazeera English Television. I had a question about Eritrea. You – Mr. Carson, you’ve called for them to provide the data so that you know what the situation is there. Has there – have you seen refugees from Eritrea moving into neighboring countries, and do you have an expectation that they are going to cooperate so that you and the other international community can help them?

: Eritrea is a closed and increasingly reclusive country, and its government has not been particularly helpful in sharing data and information about the severity of the food shortages or the drought in its country. Because it is a part of the Greater Horn of Africa, we assume that conditions in Eritrea are probably quite similar to the drought conditions that we are seeing in other places – in Ethiopia and in Kenya, Djibouti, and in Somalia. Because we don’t know what’s happening, our understanding of the situation is limited, but we encourage them to be more open about their needs and the needs of their population.

Have Your Say. Is Eritrea hiding a humanitarian crisis?

Somali Refugees Fill UN Camp in Ethiopia Within One Month

July 18th, 2011

Somali Refugees Fill UN Camp in Ethiopia Within One Month

A refugee camp opened on the Somalia-Ethiopia border at the end of June is already full, forcing the United Nations to build another one, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

As many as 2,000 Somalis fleeing war and drought are arriving each day at three camps in Dolo Odo region of southern Ethiopia, the UN said in an e-mailed statement today. Work on a fourth camp to hold as many as 40,000 people is under way.

Read More from Bloomberg News

ETHIOPIA: Borena zone braced for more failed rains

July 18th, 2011
Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
Livestock carcasses dot southern Borena zone of Oromiya region

ETHIOPIA: Borena zone braced for more failed rains

- Last October, the elders in Borena zone of Oromiya region in southern Ethiopia predicted that the main rains would fail but some never took them seriously. The same happened in February.

“There were some who believed them and sold their livestock and bought goats and saved up some of their money," Uka Dida, chairman of the Dembi kebele (village), said. “I did not believe them and I lost all my livestock – it was an expensive lesson for me.”

Now, the elders are warning that the second rains will fail again in October. Their calculations are based on the phases of the moon and the position of the stars. This time local officials believe the forecast.

"We don't have good meteorological services here - the elders also do their calculations and what they tell us is not good news,” said Ephrem Ombosho, head of one of several Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency offices in Borena. He and his team are assessing local needs.

Like other pastoralists in the region, the Borana have a range of techniques to anticipate and even predict drought, some based on observing natural phenomena such as the growth of shoots on particular plants at certain times in the year. Their calendar system, which is based on observations of the moon and stars and is thought by researchers to date back to 300BC, incorporates a form of astrology and weather forecasting.

In search of pasture

According to the UN, the southern Borena zone, along with other parts of the Horn of Africa, is just one step away from famine, on a five-point scale.

"We are thinking of forming cooperatives to pool our money for a difficult time like this," Uka said. "We are also advising people to invest in goats, which are more drought-tolerant, and maybe give up on cattle now.”

Villagers such as Adan Dhono, who lost 25 animals, have set off on a two-week journey by foot, with his surviving seven cattle, for greener pastures more than 200km away.

Others try to find casual work across the border in Kenya, but the situation is not any better there. Officials say at least 20 percent of Borena’s population has migrated to other neighbouring zones. “But imagine the amount of overgrazing that is going to lead to,” an aid worker said.

There are two rainy seasons in Oromiya: the main season, October-November, and the small season, February-May. Both failed in Borena, destroying thousands of livestock and the lives of those who depend on them. The number of aid beneficiaries has risen by 41 percent in July since April 2011, says the government.

It is cooler now in Borena. Dark clouds hover, "but these clouds just pass us by every time this year - they are moving from Kenya towards the highlands, they are not for us", said Seifu Mekbib, an agricultural expert with the local administration in Moyale, the border town between Ethiopia and Kenya.

Without rain, there is a chance some livestock will not recover. Of the 1.29 million people in Borena, at least 412,000 are already receiving some kind of food assistance, including aid provided under the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP).

Livestock deaths

Only a month ago, the stench from the rotting carcasses of cattle, donkeys and even chickens pervaded southern Borena. "The heat and the smell were so tremendous – it was very difficult for us to move around," an aid worker told IRIN.

A villager at Dikicha, about 20km from Ethiopia’s southern border with Kenya, pointed to a long ditch, with the remains of livestock. IRIN visited four villages. All had similar stories - hundreds of livestock dead.

"We just don’t have the resources to compensate their loss – it will take at least two years for them to recover," said Amare Endale, a health official at the local Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency office. "Some NGOs like Care International and the Food and Agriculture Organization have provided money but that support is also limited by resources.”

Some livestock farmers, who had received compensation, said the amount was not adequate to replace the dead animal. “I got 800 birr [about US$47] for a cow, while the cost to replace it is 1,500 birr [about $88.50],” said Boru Iba, a member of a village association.

The government’s PSNP targets people facing predictable food insecurity and offers guaranteed employment for five days a month in return for food or cash, but it has run its course in Borena. The programme runs for six months every year and also assists the elderly and disabled.


Photo: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN
Relief beneficiaries want more than just cereals. This photo was taken at a PSNP distribution point in the Borena zone

In Moyale town, the last distribution of food under the PSNP has left some angry. Dhebo Giro, 60, resident of Shabare village, asked: “What are we going to do for the next three months and what if it does not rain in October?”

People were also incensed that they were only getting cereals. “We cannot afford salt, oil; I don’t even have water – I am a woman, I need water but I can only bathe once a month,” added Dhebo.

But Hussein Hassen, a field monitor with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which provides the food for the programme, said resources were limited.

Because of the high food prices, he said, efforts were being made to ensure pastoralist communities got food rather than cash.

Admissions to the therapeutic feeding programmes in Oromiya increased by 37 percent between February and March, according to the government’s Revised Humanitarian Requirements Document.

Ombosho, the local disaster official, said relief food would be increased, but the numbers in need were rapidly rising.

In Demdi village, those numbers had doubled in the past three months, according to Barude Gideso, a food security expert at a Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency office. As a result, the amount of corn soya blend per beneficiary had been reduced from about 4kg to about 1kg.