It is now official. The United Nations has formally declared the crisis unfolding in the horn of Africa a Famine and a “humanitarian tragedy of unimaginable proportions.” Famine is defined as an acute starvation affecting greater than 30 percent of the population. In the case of Somalia, nearly half of the population is severely malnourished and under threat of starvation. The most vulnerable of these are women and children. Here are some troubling facts:
- The draught in the horn of Africa is the worst in 60 years. Experts believe that changing global weather patterns have made draught more common in this region.
- The UN estimates that 10 million people in the region are at the verge of starvation. That is about the population of Denmark and Sweden put together.
- Insecurity and political instability have worsened the draught making an already chaotic region even more chaotic. Somalia has had no effective government since 1991 – over two decades. Rival warlords and al-Shabab, the Taliban style Islamist movement which controls most of the country, have denied humanitarian agencies access to the worst affected areas in the interior of the country.
- Masses of refugees are fleeing to Northern Kenya and Eastern Ethiopia which are also draught affected regions. The UNHCR estimates that about 1,500 people are arriving at overcrowded refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
What can we do?
- Donate: Humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR, UNICEF and OXFAM all say that the donor response to this crisis has been particularly poor. The global economy is in recession and there is donor fatigue, particularly when it comes to humanitarian crises in Africa. But we cannot afford to turn our backs on the mass of women and children who face certain starvation in a world of plenty. Below are links to the websites of humanitarian organisations where you can make your donations. Please Act.
- Push local and international leaders to find a long term political solution in Somalia. Unless a political solution is found that will bring peace and stability to the country, it will continue to have a destabilizing effect on the region. The menace of Somali pirates in the high seas and the threat it poses to international commerce is a reminder of the international repercussions of the chaos in Somalia. The international community must do more to support the current United Nations and African Union backed transitional government of Somalia. Write to your local political representatives in your country to push your governments to support international initiatives aimed at finding a lasting solution in Somalia. It is in our hands.