Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How We Can Help the People in the Horn of Africa


One aid official is calling it "the world's worst humanitarian crisis": More than 12 million people are at risk of starvation in drought-stricken Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. The situation is aggravated by military conflicts, climate change and other factors.

Writes Kazi Stastna of CBS News:

The current food crisis in the Horn of Africa is a humanitarian emergency, but it has a distinctly geopolitical dimension, say experts who follow the region.

Although the immediate problem facing the 11 million people, aid agencies say, is a shortage of food, the causes of the crisis take in a broader spectrum of problems affecting the region, including climate change, agricultural policy, military conflicts and the effects of global markets on local economies.

Much has been made of the fact that parts of the region have experienced the driest year in decades because of two poor rainy seasons, but droughts are not rare in this part of Africa; nor are food shortages. The Horn (which includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda) is the poorest region on the continent, with more than 40 per cent of its population of over 160 million living in areas prone to extreme food shortages.

And while the population of the region has doubled since the 1970s, food production has not kept up with that growth, says Abbas Gnamo, an Ethiopian-born academic who teaches African politics and conflict studies at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University and has worked as a consultant in the region.

Although the majority of the region's population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, farmers lack access to machinery and fertilizers, and agricultural productivity remains low. This means that even in the years when farmers get enough rain, the amount of crops they produce is very small, and they don't have any food to put in reserve for the times when there is a drought or other unforeseen shock.

"One of the problems for the Horn of Africa is the food crisis is becoming more or less chronic," Gnamo said.

Although it doesn't address or resolve the underlying causes of this "chronic" crisis in the Horn of Africa, I nevertheless made a donation today to Doctors Without Borders in an effort to help those experiencing the very real consequences of what's happening there. Please consider taking similar action by donating to one of the following relief agencies.

Related Off-site Links:
Horn of Africa Famine: Millions at Risk in "Deadly Cocktail" of War, Climate Change, and Neoliberalism Democracy Now! (July 22, 2011).
Starvation Returns to the Horn of Africa
Refugees Flee War and Starvation in Somalia

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
How We Can Help the People of Pakistan
How We Can Help the People of Haiti
Crisis in Sri Lanka
Letting Them Sit By Me

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