East Africa Famine Spreads as the Spotlight Remains on Libya

Just as I thought the crisis in the Horn of Africa had been completely wiped from headlines and therefore the minds of most, Andrew Mitchell wrote his second statement to the House of Commons on British intervention in the food crisis. Although it is important to recognize the current situation in Libya, I will continue to urge everyone, just as I did in my previous article, to remember the Horn of Africa.

The current situation is considerably worse than when I previously commented on it. Namely, the United Nations has recently declared that the famine has now spread; more than 750,000 people will die of starvation in Somalia in the next four months if the pace of aid remains where it is now.

In fact, when the crisis emerged two months ago and only a few southern regions of Somalia had slipped into famine, it was hoped that further famine would be prevented. However, what was dreaded not only by the international community but evidently by those suffering in the region, happened. The Bay area in central Somalia was yesterday announced as the sixth region to slip into famine.

It is important to note that although Somalia is suffering from the most extreme circumstances of this disaster (made increasingly difficult by its instability on a number of levels), other countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are still being faced with deaths running into the tens of thousands. In all of the countries affected, more than 12.4 million people now need humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, United Nations studies now show that more than four million people now require food to simply stop them from dying.

However, this is not the only thing to be concerned about. Hospitals are not only dealing with severe levels of malnutrition but with subsequent illnesses such as measles, cholera and diarrheal bugs. Therefore, we have to continue to ask “what is really being done to help the crisis?”

It is always important to recognise that a number of individuals, bodies and governments have made a great impact so far. However, it is also important to highlight that the response needs to be scaled up. In fact, if it is not, the UN predicts that the whole of Somalia will soon slip into famine.

Therefore, when Mitchell finally updated the Libya consumed world with the status of aid in the Horn of Africa, I was stopped from giving up hope that dealing with famine in a failed state was somewhere on government priority lists.

Mitchell reminded the country that the UK still continues to be at the forefront of the global response and reported that “Britain was one of the first donors to step forward with significant funds.” The assistance so far provided by the UK, £124.29 million, has helped provide help to over 3 million people. Mitchell also deemed it necessary to remind the House of Commons that the UK is the second largest bilateral donor behind the US.

As well as discussing the issues at hand such as the refugee problems caused by the disaster and the continuing conflict and insecurity in numerous areas, he also stated “let me be clear that across the Horn the situation will worsen before it improves, with the situation forecast to be at its most dire in October” – something that people have not yet understood as they think the rains due in October will simply put an end to the problem.

Although UK efforts have shown great results so far (listed below), I feel compelled to mention that it saddens me that this crisis has only resurfaced as the UN announced the sixth region of famine in Somalia. This only leads me to believe that what is happening will fade away again until the UN finally publishes the terrifying statement that Somalia, the country deemed to represent the ‘ultimate failed state,’ has faced complete famine. If this unfortunately becomes the case at some point in the near future, the global implications, as I always assert, will be felt by many. An increased piracy threat, further instability in already fragile states and growing numbers of refugees are few to say the least.

Results of UK support:

– In Somalia the UK will vaccinate at least 1.3 million children against measles and 670,000 against polio. Some 624,000 children will receive vitamin A inputs and at least 528,000 children will receive de-worming medication
– In Ethiopia in June and July, the UK helped to provide food to 2.4 million people with 1.68 million people benefitting from UK funded food aid programmes in May
– UK support has also provided over 45,000 people with food distributions or vouchers for food in Somalia. By the end of this week, an additional 35,000 will have been provided with cash to buy food
– A further 18,000 of the most severely malnourished Somali children will have been treated with specially formulated food
– A consignment of over 10,000 metric tonnes of specially formulated flour, rice, pulses, and oil for the prevention and treatment of moderately malnourished children is now en route to Somalia
– Almost 160,000 mosquito nets have been purchased to prevent weakened children and their families succumbing to malaria


Posted on September 6, 2011, in Foreign Affairs, Looking Forward. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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