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Monday:  October 6, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in famine (16)

Monday
May142012

Historic Brazil, Mexico Droughts Cause Distress, Economic Conflict (REPORT) 

(Video IBNTimes)

(HN, 5/14/12) - In Brazil the worst drought in 30 years is underway in the country's  poor north-eastern region, destroying crops and prompting officials to limit water use in the 266 districts that have declared a state of emergency.  Lakes have dried up, forcing thousands of families who live in remote areas to walk miles in order to pick up water.

The agriculture secretary in the town of Maracas, Gilmar Rocha, said the drought problems have become constant in the region.  "The local neighborhood of Porto Alegre, is located close to the Contas' river, and we use the river's water in our homes. But the river is drying up and the problems are constant now," he said.

As a result of the drought, ranchers have been struggling to feed and water cattle while farmers have been left to watch their crops shrivel into the dusty soil.  Forty-two-year-old Jose Oliveira de Sousa, who works at a raft station in the district of Maracas, said many of his colleagues have been left unemployed as a result of the drought.

"Everyone is going through a big crisis because of the drought. Our jobs have been taken away from us, from the fishermen to the farmers to the boat and raft operators," he said.

According to weather experts, the drought may last up to October. The drought in the Southern hemisphere is caused by La Nina, which is cooling equatorial Pacific waters.

- By Marisa Krystian originally for IBNTimes

(PHOTO: A northern Mexico river location/El Universal) In Mexico a cold and dry winter in the north of the country has exacerbated conditions there with reports of widespread famine, escalating food prices and extreme dry conditions that have forced the Mexican government to truck drinking water to nearly a half million residents in remote villages across six northern states where lakes and ground wells have run dry.

In addition, Mexican aid workers have been offering food rations throughout the winter to more than 2 million residents who are desperately clinging to life in a region that is experiencing its driest period on record. 

The drought is credited with destroying some 7.5 million acres of cultivable land in 2011 and is responsible for $1.18 billion in lost harvests and has destroyed about 60,000 head of cattle and weakened 2 million more causing a substantial spike in food prices.

Officials say acute food and grain shortages caused Mexico’s imports to soar 35% last year and they could go even higher in 2012 as conditions worsen.

Dr. Mark Welch, grain marketing economist with Texas AgriLife Extension in College Station, says while Texas is not a big corn producing state, he thinks shortages for grain and food corn will cause many US growers to look hard at market potential in Mexico in the months ahead.

“We have been watching corn imports trend higher in Mexico over the last 25 years, but the recent spike related to the drought there is significant as it is not just yellow corn that is in demand, but white corn for food,” Welch says.

In Mexico the shortage of white corn is marked by higher food prices and a shortage in tortillas, a food staple for Mexican families.

(MAP: El Universal) “And this is not the first time we have seen an extreme shortage. The last time was in 2008 when corn shortages caused a tortilla crisis that resulted in riots and price limit controls by federal authorities,” he added.

Welch says even if drought conditions improve in Northern Mexico over the summer months, the trend for white corn imports are expected to trend upward.

“The demand for grain corn may be directly associated with the drought in Northern Mexico. Once conditions improve there we will see Mexican grain corn imports leveling off. But white corn imports have been trending up for several years, and it could be that a growing population base is driving demand - and I expect that to continue,” he says.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to struggle with more than just grain shortages as a result of dry conditions. The 2011 price of beans has doubled in just over a year, and consumers are feeling the pinch in other food staples. On a whole, prices for basic foods—including beans, tortillas, vegetable oil, meat and dairy - rose 45% in 2011, and since October last year prices have exploded another 35%.

While the situation is most dire in the impoverished areas of the north, metropolitan areas including highly industrialized Monterrey are also feeling the squeeze. Recently the Mexican Red Cross estimated that some two million people are chronically hungry in the state of Nuevo Leon.

The crisis is becoming a political thorn in the side of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. While Mexico grows substantial food crops for export to the US - some $21 billion last year - it is struggling to grow enough for its resident population, a problem some argue is being driven by greed from Mexico’s upper class.

Economists say Mexico will continue to struggle with becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient, but drought conditions will continue to complicate those efforts until substantial rains fall.

-- A version of this article by Logan Hawkes appeared in the Southwest Farm Press

Tuesday
Apr102012

Sahel NOW: Decisive action is needed to avoid another famine crisis (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video UN)

By Rebecca Barber

This time last year, the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) warned that the food security situation in the Horn of Africa was 'alarming', and that poor rains could lead to famine conditions in parts of Somalia.

As an international community, we failed to respond.  Four months later the worst was realised and the UN declared a famine in six regions in Southern Somalia. By November, 750,000 people were at risk of starvation.

It's now acknowledged that last year's food crisis in the Horn of Africa took no-one by surprise, and that we had the information needed to take cost-effective, preventive action to save lives.  An evaluation conducted late last year by the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee found that there was a 'failure of preventive action from late 2010', and a 'failure to respond with adequate relief from the time it was needed in early to mid-2011'.

We don't know exactly how many people died in the Horn of Africa, although one estimate suggests a figure of between 50,000 and 100,000. What we do know is that an earlier response which supported livelihoods, preserved household income and supported markets would have reduced rates of malnutrition, and that more substantial provision of food, nutrition, clean water and health services would have reduced the number of deaths. If an earlier response had saved even a small percentage of the lives lost, thousands of men, women and children would be alive today.

(MAP: The Sahel region in West Africa/Wikipedia)In the aftermath of the crisis, Australia has strengthened its commitment to tackling food insecurity in Africa, as well as its commitment to ensuring timely response to crises when they occur.  At the conclusion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth last year, the Australian government together with other Commonwealth member states recognised food insecurity as 'one of the most pressing and difficult global challenges of our time', and called for 'decisive and timely measures to prevent crises occurring' and to 'mitigate their impact when they do'.

This commitment is timely, because now another food crisis is unfolding in the Sahel – a belt of arid land that stretches from Senegal in the west through Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad to Sudan. This time, albeit far from the media spotlight, Australia together with the rest of the world has an opportunity to demonstrate lessons learned from the Horn.

More than 13 million people are at risk of hunger in the Sahel – a result of poor rains, a 25 per cent decline in food production across the region, a reduction in remittances from neighbouring countries, and skyrocketing food prices.  Recent assessments by Save the Children show that in some parts of Niger, communities lack nearly two-thirds of the food and cash they need to survive the year. 

In some parts of Mali, families are struggling to cope as the price of millet has risen by more than 80 per cent, while at the same time remittances have fallen by as much as 70 percent as workers return from Libya and Algeria.

One million children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition – in plain language this means severely wasted. Malnutrition levels in some areas now exceed the emergency threshold of 15 per cent.  Families have already begun to adopt 'harmful coping mechanisms' such as reducing the number of daily meals, selling livestock which is usually relied on for food and income, going into debt, and taking children out of school. In the long-term this reduces resilience and food security.

In a promising demonstration of lessons learned from the Horn, a number of donors have recognised the scale of the impending crisis and made early and generous commitments to the Sahel. 

The US has pledged $75 million, Canada $41 million, France $22 million, and Germany $19 million.  Australia has pledged $10 million – an amount that pales in comparison to the $128 million contributed to the Horn of Africa last year.  It's not enough.

(PHOTO: Nomads in the Sahel/DailyMaverick) The UN estimates that it will need $725 million to tackle food security and nutrition in the Sahel, but so far just over half of this has been pledged – and even less actually committed.  The lean season (the time between harvests when household food stocks dwindle) is approaching, and the next harvest is not until October. 

The head of the Food and Agricultural Organisation warned last month that there were only two or three months to act to avoid a crisis on a scale similar to that seen in the Horn of Africa last year.  That window of opportunity will soon close.

With the indicators of crisis becoming stronger, the Australian government has an opportunity now to take decisive action and demonstrate lessons learnt from the Horn of Africa.  The consequences of failing to do so will be millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance, and thousands of lives lost.

- Rebecca Barber is Save the Children's humanitarian policy and advocacy advisor. This editorial originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Tuesday
Feb212012

10 million Africans face starvation (REPORT) 

 By Mel Frykberg

(GRAPHIC: FEWS Net)The UN warned on Saturday that 10 million people in Africa’s Sahel region faced starvation and called for a greater humanitarian response to the crisis, which is threatening eight countries, particularly Niger, where at least half of those at risk are situated. The Sahel countries include parts of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, northern Cameroon and Eritrea.

Helen Clark, the UN development programme’s administrator, and the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, made the appeal during a visit to Niger’s Tillabery region.

Their visit entailed an inspection of an agricultural project supported by the UN, which grows vegetables in a sustainable way, while simultaneously improving the nutrition of the villagers and providing them with a source of income.

“This project shows how a tiny initial investment can make a major difference,” Amos said.

“Just a few kilometres from here, there is a village which has not had this investment, where people are leaving their homes and have taken their children out of school so that they can look for food,” she said.

(PHOTO: Aliyin Would Eleiat, the chief of a village in the Gorgol region of Mauritania shows 1 of few wells that still has water. It serves as the lifeline for 75 families/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)Clark stated that the wider crisis in the Sahel, where poor harvests following repeated droughts had caused severe shortages, threatened 10 million people in desperate need of assistance.

Furthermore, international non-governmental organisations warned that the Sahel could be crippled by this year.

Oxfam has announced that harvests plummeted 25% in the region compared to 2010 because of lack of rains. This will leave more than one million children threatened with severe malnutrition.

---This piece originally appeared in South Africa's New Age

RELATED:

(PHOTO: Baaba Maal with Oxfam in Mauritania/OXFAM)Senegal's Baaba Maal visits Mauritania with Oxfam: "The scale of this crisis is so great that I have to speak out so that the world reacts"

During a 48 hour visit to the Gorgol region of Mauritania, the musician Baaba Maal discovered the harsh reality for communities affected by a food crisis that now touches one in four people across the country. Today 700,000 people are food insecure in Mauritania.

"What is happening in this part of Africa is so close to my heart. People are suffering, especially children. I cannot watch and do nothing,” declared Senegalese singer Baaba Maal after visiting Mauritanian communities at the center of the current food crisis in the Sahel. Low rainfall, poor harvests, a lack of pasture and rising food prices are among the key factors driving this crisis.

Baaba Maal, who met populations in the south of the country, not far from his home village in Senegal, noted: “Some families have almost nothing to eat, and I worry about how they will feed themselves until the next harvest.”

(PHOTO: The Senegal River, which forms the natural border between Mauritania & Senegal, is too low for the crop season/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)The Senegalese singer, internationally renowned and recognized for his commitment to development in Africa, launched an appeal to the international community for urgent action: “We cannot watch and do nothing while our brothers and sisters in Mauritania are victims of such a crisis. I have been able to see the solutions that are being put in place. We have to support and strengthen them."

"I met Hamila, a mother of five children, who had just bought a bag of rice thanks to money provided by Oxfam. This money will allow her to feed her family over the coming weeks. Hamila is among the most vulnerable people in her community but there are many other people who need our help,” explained Baaba Maal.

Last December, Oxfam and its partners launched a humanitarian response in the south of Mauritania in order to provide assistance to 30,000 people, and are planning to scale up operations to avoid a major crisis. In coordination with the emergency plan developed by the Government, the organisation has put in place cash transfers to allow populations to protect their livelihoods. Other actions to improve access to clean drinking water are also underway in order to prevent water-borne diseases that lead to malnutrition, especially in children.

"When I was young, this region was totally green but every year I see it becoming more and more dry. Yet water is there, in the river and in the ground. We have to work together and join forces to solve the problem, so that we never see this situation repeated again,” added Baaba Maal.

Oxfam is calling for urgent interventions to avoid the worst over the coming months, as well as long-term investments to strengthen the resilience of populations, allow communities to cope with bad years, and prevent crises of the future. As well as Mauritania, Oxfam is actively supporting communities affected by this crisis in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

--- This piece originally appeared on OXFAM

Monday
Feb062012

Sound the Horn: Opinion on the Horn of Africa `Famine’ 

(PHOTO: Dadaab Refugee camp, Kenya/WFP)By Lily H. Ostrer

On Friday, February 2, the United Nations declared an end to the famine in the Horn of Africa that killed tens of thousands of people in the last nine months. With an unstable political situation and 2.3 million people still in need of food, there is a high likelihood that famine conditions will return to the region within the next 100 days. While natural occurrences such as drought may have initiated the famine, its severity and persistence can be attributed to people and politics. Indeed, the situation in the Horn of Africa is a perfect storm of environmental, local, and international dynamics, topped off by the presence of a militant Islamist group blockading aid efforts.

For this very reason, it is imperative that we consider multi-dimensional solutions to the crisis in the Horn of Africa. The need will not end with the UN’s declaration last Friday, nor will the political situation change overnight. Activists have called on the media and on donors to continue to pay attention and give money to maintain a response to the humanitarian needs, and we agree. But as members of the Harvard community, we should all seek to encourage further academic engagement to derive holistic, multi-disciplinary solutions.

The UN reserves the label of “famine” for only the most severe emergencies—at least two deaths per 10,000 people per day, at least 30 percent of children with acute malnutrition, and at least 20 percent of the population unable to reach its food need. When the UN declared famine last July, the region, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti, had faced nearly two successive years of almost no rainfall and over 12 million individuals needed food aid. Somalia fared the worst, as years of political instability and war have left millions displaced and al-Shabaab, the group with de facto control over the country, has blocked food aid and shut down refugee camps.

(MAP: WFP) Indeed, al-Shabaab is the most obvious reason why simple humanitarian solutions cannot end the famine in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has denied access to aid organizations, evicted refugee camps, and prompted widespread violence throughout the region, taking credit for bombings in Somalia and neighboring countries. Because of this, al-Shabaab is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, which puts Somalia on the map in the U.S. war on terror. The African Union has had a force in Somalia since 2007, and Kenya invaded in 2011, introducing regional complexity to the humanitarian crisis. But U.S. policy towards the region is additionally sensitive due to the Black Hawk Down tragedy in 1993, when 18 U.S. soldiers died on a mission in Mogadishu. For these reasons, no matter what develops in Somalia, the U.S. is unlikely to ever put troops on the ground, leaving Kenyans and other African nations to deal with al-Shabaab. However, as Davidson College Professor Kenneth J. Menkhaus points out, while responding to al-Shabaab is necessary, responding to the immediate humanitarian crisis will draw attention to Shabaab’s inhumane acts, weakening its stronghold in the country. Sensitivity to the historical and political situation in Somalia is key to effective intervention, but it should not detract from the importance of fighting acute malnutrition and food shortages.

Much work has been done to study food security in the developing world and many of the manmade causes of this famine are known. Soaring food prices have played a large role. Last August, the prices of maize and sorghum, two important staples, were 84 percent and 240 percent higher than a year before. In addition to poor local harvests, U.S. production of ethanol and the diversion of crops for the production of biofuels have exacerbated price increases. A systemic underinvestment in agriculture in East and Central Africa has led to decreased agricultural capacity in recent years. While up to 60 percent of the populations of many of these nations depend on agriculture for their livelihood, many governments devote only five percent of national expenditure to agriculture. At the same time, investment in infrastructure is vitally important for the transportation of crops and fertilizer. Robert L. Paarlberg, a professor at Wellesley College and an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, has been mapping the impact of the under-usage of biotechnology in Africa. Scientific advances in developing seeds resistant to drought and insects would greatly improve the region’s food production, where farmers are now less productive on a per-capita basis than they were in 1970. Paarlberg posits that the spread of such technology has been held up by the richer countries in which they were developed. The usage of newly developed surveillance techniques, a focus of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, could allow for improved early warning systems.

(PHOTO: Kenya/WFP)We now know many of the causes of famine, but coordinating the response in a tense political climate remains challenging for humanitarian organizations. Consequently, donors who want to support the cause are left unsure about which organizations can reach people in need, who can bring about immediate relief, and how we can transition to long-term change. As a university, our mandate must be to reach greater understanding of the crisis by bringing together experts from many disciplines. Harvard has responded in important ways to humanitarian crises in the past, from fundraising to utilizing its academic expertise, and we commend the important strides it has made in responding to this crisis. I hope the university continues to leverage its academic capital to bring about an end to one of the most complex recurring crises to face humanity.

---Lily H. Ostrer ’14 is a social studies concentrator in Kirkland House, Harvard University, and her piece was originally published in the Harvard Crimson HERE)

Thursday
Jan262012

Somalia: Returning to my Homeland (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)

Michael Bociurkiw interviews UK-based Somali, Samira Hashi upon her return from her homeland and talks to her about leaving, why she went back, the dire situation in refugee camps and bringing about change.

Michael Bociurkiw: You fled Somalia as an baby at the beginning of the civil war, where did you and your family go? - how did you end up in the UK? 

Samira Hashi: I was born in 1990 in the city of Mogadishu, once known as the 'Jewel of Africa'. Ten days into my livelihood the civil war broke out in Somalia. 

My mother had two choices, to hang about and wait till things got worse of flee for a better life and future for herself and her children. My mother, one of the many educated people in Somalia, fled as early as possible. 

The nearest location for safety, at the time was Kenya, which hadn't even opened a refugee camp yet. Whilst they (refugee camps) were being established my family and I stayed in camps in Mombassa, later moving to another similar refugee camp in Otanga. For two years my family struggled to survive, barely being able to feed ourselves let alone put a roof over our heads. Luckily organizations such as the Red Cross were there to offer support and aid as well as relief from the trauma of the on-going war. 

I come from a very large family that are all spread around the world, they couldn't bare to see me and my family suffer and they did all they could to support us in such a difficult time as well as getting us out of that grueling situation. I moved to the UK at a very young age, we settled quickly and began out new lives here. I would say that was one of the best and most admirable decisions my mother made and I give her my greatest gratitude towards her. 

MB: What has life been like for you growing up in the UK? 

SH: Coming from a country with little solidarity, security and governing system, that is now recognized as a 'failed state', my mother put great pressure in teaching us the value of liberty and independence. 

Education was always her priority and she ensured me and my sisters obtained qualifications that would one day help us stand on our own two feet. As soon as we came into the UK me and my sisters began nursery and have been working consistently up the academic ladder. As a result of a strong, persistent mother all of my 4 older sisters have successfully passed higher education and have achieved a university degree, some now on advance levels working towards procuring their masters.

Currently I am studying International Business and Law at Kingston University, not only to demonstrate my intellectual ability but also to achieve my goal in establishing my own business. Education is an essential part of my life as one day I wish to enlighten and empower girls and young women all over the world using my knowledge and skills in life. 

MB: You are model and have grown in that field, how did you start and what are you looking to do now? 

SH: At a very young age I was aware that I was different from all of my other sisters. They are very reserved and shy and found that they sat well with the education system. I have always had this suspicion that although knowledge is power theirs more to life than just an exam paper and textbooks. I was desperate to explore the world, learn and experience things that a printed document written by a man twenty years ago couldn't teach me. My mother wasn't always fond of my new aspirations, she always believed I would get lost in this cruel, harsh, beautiful world. Despite all her pleading and appeal for me to stick with my sisters, I became to anxious and set out on a journey in finding myself and my purpose of living. 

Throughout my journey I came across a modelling agency at the age of 17 who seemed very intrigued in working with me. I signed the contract and later realised that this is something I entirely enjoy. It was more than taking a photo with a camera man that captured me, its the warmth feeling I felt when connecting with people I was working with. The ability to portray a strong emotion or expression without speaking, the idea of manipulating an image to create something that could be compared with art, it excited me. I grew a passion for modelling, I was determined to succeed and knew nothing could stop me other than myself. I learnt the ropes of the industry and gained further confidence.

Soon I felt restricted and believed I could achieve great things from my modelling career but felt I wasn't given the opportunities to deliver. This lead me to leaving my old agency and advertising and promoting myself to gain recognition from modelling agencies that were on a higher level. For one year I crafted and worked extremely hard, I was dismissed and rejected by a number of agencies still I refused to loose hope and give up on my dreams and ambitions. I learnt to brand myself, believe that I had the ability to be the best and make use of any opportunity that passed my way. I discovered my purpose in modelling when I got signed to one the biggest modelling agencies in the world 'Elite London'. It verified the belief I had in myself now knowing that individuals that have the ability to transform my modelling career are convinced that I can achieve great things.

Through my modelling career I understand that I could put myself in a position where I am recognised for the work that I do. I have never wanted to make a fortune or become famous. My aim in modelling is to become a role model, to get to a point in my career where I can bring about change and make a difference to the world. Where I have the ability and power to educate and inspire girls and young women and give a voice to those that are not heard.

I wish to motivate young people to take no notice of what their forced to believe and to create and carve their own pathways for themselves. Like myself to find their own destiny and work towards becoming a unique, successful, independent individual. 

MB: What motivated you to go back to Somalia now? 

SH: Somalia has always played a huge role in my life. My mother enlightened me and my sisters with the Somali culture from the clothes she wore, to the food we ate, the weddings we went to, the music she would sometimes blast from the stereo or laptop. My mother refused to let go of her culture and everything she knew just because she came into the UK. She wanted to teach us about our heritage and roots.

Other than the war my mother always embraced the good memories she held of our country and never failed to stop telling us stories. Somalia was always in my heart but I never felt any connection as I was to young to remember. The only recollection I had was what I saw on the news and many times that wasn't something positive.

I always knew I had some responsibilities towards my country as a young Somali growing up in London but I never thought of the extent or necessity that our help was needed. What motivated me to return was the desire to gain a deeper understanding of my country, to feel assured and content with my roots and myself, and to see what aid I can offer or facilitate in helping a country that most desperately needs it.  

As Somalia is my country of birth and previous home to my large family I felt obliged to return and participate in the process of development. At many of times prior to going back home and even when I was actually in Somalia I was scared for my safety and constantly prayed that God would protect me. Despite that, I defeated that anxiety for the purpose of a better future not only for myself and my family but for the whole of my country and its people. 

MB: Tell us about the documentary you worked on... 

SH: I recently contributed on a 60 minute documentary for BBC 3 which enabled me to return to Somalia and highlight issues such as; the war, famine and drought and bring them into the surface of the media.

As a young Somali who fled in 1990 my age and the war in Somalia are in correlation; we both turned 21 last year. The idea of the documentary was to reach out to a young audience that may not have any concept of current affairs and issues occurring on the other side of the world. The documentary was mind-blowing as it fulfilled all my desires in gaining a connection with Somalia and grasping a broader concept of its current state.

Working on this documentary not only altered my views on my country, it also changed me as a person. My experiences in Somalia has made me more humble than I ever thought by appreciating the simplest things that we take for granted, such as clean water that runs continuously from our taps. The programme that was once only supposed to be a personal journey, I am now seeing as a platform to bring about change.

MB: What are the conditions like for the people you met .... is there one particular person or memory that touched you? 

SH: The conditions in Somalia were not as vibrant and radiant as the stories my mother used to always share with us. The powerless state has little effect in protecting and preventing the on-going war that's now long over due.

Somali's have been fleeing since 1990 and continue to still leave hastily in their thousands. Current invasion of Al'Shabaab militants have left the country in turmoil and people in fear, restrictions on aid and external intervention has left the Somali people to perish due to the famine and drought. Hope for a better further and better lives melt away day by day. Even when they think the suffering is all over, Somali's overcome many more barriers and hurdles.

The refugee camp at times cannot accommodate the thousands of displaced people so they have to sit and wait for days sometimes months for just a piece of sheet of plastic to shelter themselves and their families. Food is always scarce and with such harsh conditions of heat and lack of water, Somali's are bound to deteriorate.

A special memory that I refuse to neglect is the protection and safety of Somali refugees in one of the camps in particular area situated in Ethiopia called 'Halloweyn'. The security and preservation in some these refugee camps is extremely poor. One of the issues raised and covered in the documentary is the number of rape victims that actually occur so often in the camps and the diminutive action taken to prevent this as well the level of awareness which is more less being concealed.

I interviewed two young women who had been subjected to rape by the locals due to travelling far into the woods to collect wood fire to cook and feed their families. I then discovered that this happens so often that the Somali refugee's had protested outside the UNHCR compound in Dollo Ado, for their voices to be heard and someone to do something about it.

It is embarrassing to say that this issue has not once been raised in the UK media or in fact anywhere else. I am currently in the process of establishing my own charity that helps protect vulnerable women all over the world and I feel compelled to begin with Somali women. I am going to develop this charity by initially gaining support from the large Somali Diaspora located all over the world. I want to raise a petition that helps support my concerns and votes against the defective security and protection system that is currently in place in this particular refugee camp. I plan to transmit these problems to my local MP who I hope could then highlight them within the House of Parliament.  My objective this year is to help establish a beneficial system where Somali women within the 'Halloweyn' refugee camp our guarded from rape and gender based violence.

Simple almost effortless arrangements could be put in place for example; a security guard that safeguards the women and observes whilst they collect the wood fire, women proceeding into the outskirts only in large numbers, only men collecting the wood fire or even a half way meeting point. This will ensure and shield the well-fare of not only the mental mind state of Somali women but also their health and future refuge. 

MB: What more can the rest of the world do... what is your message? 

SH: The outside world can:

  • Raise more awareness about Somalia
  • Deal with issues that are could easily be dealt with but are overlooked by the war and famine such as; the number of rapes that occur within the refugee camps
  • Urge the Somali Diaspora (especially the young) to do more for their country as hope lies within them. We are the future of Somalia
  • Highlight areas such as; Somali-land that has maintained a safe and working system for the Somali people - Showing that not everything within the Somali community is negative.
  • Please get involved and sign up for my petition and help protect our girls, young and old women  

My message: This is not the end for Somalia, we have a very bright future and only us the people of the country can bring about those changes. Don't give up on such a beautiful place and don't loose hope. Believe and we will all achieve a better and safer environment for ourselves and our children. 

You can contact me if you wish to help or discuss any of the issues that I have raised further

 samirahashi5@hotmail.co.uk 

Thursday
Oct062011

Bono Horn of Africa Campaign: "Famine is the Obscenity" (NEWS BRIEF/VIDEO)

 

(HN, October 6, 2011) - The Irish singer, musician and humanitarian, Bono, has launched a new, high energy campaign to bring renewed attention to the Horn of Africa famine, which is now impacting more than 13 million people in several countries.

Through his One International organization, and a video called  “The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity”, Bono has recruited several high profile artists and actors to suggest that famine is an obscene a word as the for-letter expletive starting with the letter 'f.'

Said Bono in a personalized mass email campaign: I’ve been known to drop the occasional expletive, but the most offensive F word to me is not the one that goes f***.  It’s F***** - the famine happening in the Horn of Africa, mainly Somalia.

The video and online campaign is supplemented by a petition to world leaders, timed to appear ahead of next month's Group of 20 Summit in France. It urges them to live up to promises already made to invest in the things proven to work, including: early warning systems, irrigation, drought resistant seeds, and peace and security.

It contends that the famine in Somalia could kill 750,000 in the coming months, and tens of thousands have already died.

Says the petition:

"When you meet at the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in November, you have the opportunity to break the cycle of famine and ensure people are hungry no more. Lives are in your hands. Please keep the promises you have made to the 2 billion poor people who depend on farming for their livelihoods.

"The reasons for the famine in the Horn of Africa are complex and solutions are difficult, especially in Somalia, but we can’t lose sight of some simple facts:

1. 30,000 children have died in just 3 months.  Thirty thousand.  With over 12 million people at risk.

2. Famine is not a natural catastrophe – drought doesn’t have to lead to famine.  It can be prevented, as we have seen in much of Kenya and Ethiopia.  

"In the 21st century, it’s an obscenity that people are dying because they can’t get enough food to eat.  Every one of those 30,000 children is part of a family – a son, a daughter, sister or brother.  We can’t imagine what it must be like to starve to death, but most of us know what it’s like to lose someone we love."

Bono has a long record going back to the 1980s of intervening in humanitarian disasters, especially in Africa.

His U2 band performed in the Band Aid and Live Aid projects, organised by Bob Geldof. In 1984, Bono sang on the Band Aid single "Do They Know it's Christmas?/Feed the World." Geldof and Bono later collaborated to organise the 2005 Live 8 project, where U2 also performed.

ONE describes itself as a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, including Warren Buffett and African telecommunications tycoon Mo Ibrahim, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African activists and policy makers.

- HUMNEWS staff

Thursday
Sep222011

Nourishing the Future (OPINION) 

By Beverley J. Oda, Jan O'Sullivan T.D. and Dr. Raj Shah

An acutely malnourished child at a community-based treatment centre in northern Nigeria CREDIT: HUMNEWSAbsent from most of today’s headlines is the fact that more than 13 million people are currently threatened by the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. In the Horn of Africa the worst drought in 60 years has devastated farmlands, uprooted thousands of desperate families who are migrating in search of help and led to the outbreak of a massive famine in southern Somalia. 

As the world comes together in response, there is one underlying fact that—as long as it is ignored—could allow crises like these to reoccur. Emergency assistance is not a long-term solution.  In order to mitigate and prevent future tragedies, we must develop long-term, sustainable approaches to food security.

The problem of hunger and undernutrition is not limited to the Horn. In nations and regions throughout the world, one poor growing season can devastate the livelihoods of millions. Even when rains come do come and harvests are strong, too many families are forced to live on the edge, one meal away from hunger or suffering silently from undernutrition. Too many children grow up lacking the nutrients needed to fend off disease or develop their bodies and brains fully.

Globally, 200 million children suffer from undernutrition and each year it contributes to more than three million child deaths. Countries and aid organizations have long attempted to tackle the problem of undernutrition, but as with many of the important problems we face, it cannot not be solved without a unified response.

Fortunately, we now have the knowledge, tools and coordination necessary to institute both short-term emergency responses and long-term preventive strategies.  Critically, we also have the political will.  

In 2009, the leaders of the G8 joined at the L’Aquila summit to call for increased investment in agriculture and rural development to strengthen food security and economic growth. President Obama then launched an international effort called Feed the Future that brought more than 20 countries together to invest in food security throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

And last year, more than 100 organizations and entities joined together to launch Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): A Framework for Action. Critically, this coalition realized that nutrition is woven into almost every meaningful issue of equity both between and within countries – from health to agriculture to social protection and stability.

No infant or child can have a fair chance at life when they are denied the vitamins and nutrients that are the building blocks for healthy growth. Accordingly, SUN proposed three scientifically backed recommendations: promoting breastfeeding, increasing the intake of vitamins and minerals, and employing therapeutic feeding to prevent moderate and severe malnutrition.

Each recommendation was designed with the potential of every child in mind; it is crucial that a child receives critical nutrients during the “1,000 day” window of opportunity between a mother’s pregnancy and until her child’s second birthday. Children given those nutrients during that window have the best chance to fulfill their intellectual potential and contribute to the economic development of their societies.

In the Horn of Africa, we are seeing the full spectrum of undernutrition’s impact, as children weakened by drought, hunger and disease suffer, while thousands of refugees desperate for their next meal show up every day on regional borders. Undernutrition and hunger exacerbate every major health threat–from birth and pregnancy complications to diarrheal diseases to living with HIV/AIDS to pneumonia. They also threaten economic growth, political stability and invite regional conflict.  

To truly invest in the potential of individuals, the stability of borders and the prevention of future disasters, we must focus on sustainably improving the nutrition of children, societies and the global community.

Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, Canadian International Development Agency

Jan O'Sullivan T.D., Minister of State for Trade and Development, Ireland

Dr. Raj Shah, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Wednesday
Aug312011

Shame on You: Drought, Famine & the Failure of International Aid! (PERSPECTIVE)

by Rachel Zedeck 

At a UNICEF-supported feeding centre in East Africa, a weary mother pauses after her baby received emergency therapeutic food. CREDT: M Bociurkiw(HN, August 31, 2011) During this weeks’ hash a Director at the German Red Cross said to me, “The drought was so inconvenient this year.  We were all on annual leave.  Do people expect me to give up my holiday.”  After swallowing some vomit, I started to reflect on exactly how this humanitarian disaster has been allowed to escalate to such an extreme.  More and more, my nausea has been induced by the world of international aid; in particular the inaction of the Red Cross coupled with the pandering of World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Oxfam and the list goes on.  These organizations (whether non-profit or UN agency) literally have every means available to understand impending drought and insidious threat of famine.   I focus on three. 

First, weather is predictable. That’s right. In Kenya and in many regions of Sub Saharan Africa we have historic and predictive weather mapping. Even in darkest Arica, rain isn’t magic.  Second, how long have NGOs been operating here?  What happened to common sense? Every year this region suffers through a drought of varying intensity and subsequent adversity.  2010 was the first break from drought in 7 years while Kenya experienced more than a billion dollars in economic loss in 2009.  So while this may be the worst drought in the last 60 years, this is not a new story! Finally, why was no one talking about preventative measures?  I was in Nairobi and can’t remember one campaign speaking publically about impending drought.   Mr. Abbas Gulet, the Head of Kenya’s Red Cross, head of the region’s only non-profit Superbrand should be most ashamed.  Not only responsible for one of the largest humanitarian missions in the world, he is ethnically Kenyan theoretically giving him even greater insight into how is organization’s $30+ million annual budget. Instead of answering what they should have been doing, I can tell you what the community as a whole isn’t doing.   It’s actually worse than the mismanagement following Katrina. 

First, neither the public, private, or NGO sectors are educating Kenyans about drought, better water management or irrigated crops. Ironic because irrigation is a key component in Kenya’s 2030 Vision for the country’s strategic development.  With the unprecedented use of mobile phones and content (ICT for Development) in Africa, educating and supporting millions of people in rural Kenyan isn’t just a fantasy. Considering the UN seeks $16.9 Billion USD for emergency relief let alone campaigns like Kenyans for Kenya, raising funds to purchase food that doesn’t exist.  Instead we could have sent a series of 10 sms’ to every Kenyan citizen for less than $6 million.   Another $100 million (or much more) could have been allocated to low interest loans to help farmers purchase drip (gravity fed) irrigation and trained them on how to install, maintenance and store excess crops for drought season.  Guess what, food aid is still food and needs to be grown which means farming.  

There isn’t a simple answer to food security and we can’t end drought.  Instead, Kenya and its neighbors need to grow and store more food while eliminating crop losses. This translates into a combination of hard work complimented by agriculture innovation, affordable agriculture finance, community outreach and expansion of existing road networks. NO overnight solutions but practical, sustainable and scalable.   It is time for an evolution; the UN and NGOs must recognize their chronic failures and share leadership with the commercial sector able to offer proactive and practical strategies for the future of humanitarian disaster.  

- Rachel Zedeck is Managing Director of the Backpack Farm Agriculture Program, an internationally recognized social enterprise in Nairobi, Kenya exclusively supporting smallholder farmers with access to ecologically friendly training and packages of green agri-tech believing “Africans can feed Africa”  thru the power of multi-functional farming impacting social, economic and ecological domains.

Wednesday
Aug102011

Access to Drought-Stricken Somalia May be Easing (NEWS BRIEF)

Famine-affected families in Somalia. CREDIT: United Nations(HN, August 10, 2011 - UPDATED 2350GMT) After years of enduring violence and blockages to vulnerable women and children in Somalia, aid agencies may be on the brink of fresh access to parts of Somalia - including the capital, Mogadishu - for the first time in years.

According to published reports, the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab (حركة الشباب المجاهدين‎), which controls many parts of the capital and rural areas, has been retreating from some neighborhoods that they have controlled for years.

The withdrawal is seen as the most significant gain for the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government, however some analysts suggest the Al-Shabaab retreat may be temporary and perhaps even a dangerous provocation.

In an indication of improved access into Somalia, the UN said Tuesday that they were able to dispatch more aid to the country.

In a UN news briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS, Elisabeth Byrs, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that 2,000 tons of humanitarian assistance has been dispatched to Somalia in July by air, boat or road. The humanitarian programmes are currently being stepped up to avoid further victims but security conditions and access persisted as major challenges for most humanitarian partners.

That was also a sentiment echoed by a spokesperson for the UN's Food and Agriculture Orginization (FAO).

A Somali woman holds her severely malnourished baby outside a medical clinic established by the African Union Mission in Somalia's peace keeping operation. CREDIT: FAOLuca Alinovi of FAO Somalia and Kenya, said that the situation was is yet stabilized, and that there is a very real possibility of a worsening in South Central Somalia because the level of support in the country is extremely low in the context of a severe drought and a complex emergency. The situation has been particularly worsening in the last two seasons and has grown more serious due to internal factors, such as the conflict, and external factors, such as increasing food prices.

Aid agencies say about 600,000 children are on the brink of starvation.

"The reason it's hitting its children hardest is because they're the weakest when they go without food or water. They simply cannot go for all of those weeks," said WFP chief Josette Sheeran.

International super model Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid ( يمان محمد عبد المجيد‎)), who was born in Somalia, said Tuesday that the international community, including wealthy Arab countries, need to step up to the plate and donate more funds. Speaking on CNN's AC360, she voiced fears that an entire generation could be wiped out.

"This will be remembered as a catastrophe that has destroyed a generation of children..I want people to understand that this is a catastrophe that was preventable but that it is salvageable," said Iman.

Another prominent celebrity of Somali decent, Keinan Abdi Warsame (also known as K'naan), said he feared his home country's tarnished reputation as a haven for Islamist rebels, piracy and black hole of hopelessness does not turn people off from helping. "People have created a psychological fence where around their hearts where Somalia is concerned..we have to find a way to get past that and look at the humanity of what is happening."

Also on AC360, the Irish singer, musician and humanitarian Bono voiced disbelief that a catastrophe impacting as many as 12 million people in four countries wasn't receiving more prominence. "It is shocking, it is disgusting..it's hard to believe that this is the 21st century. We mustn't let the complexity of the situation absolve us from responsibility to act."

Bono articulated what many heads of UN agencies and relief agencies fear: that with competing headlines at the moment - including the tumbling stock market - the famine may not garner the prominence that it deserves. "I think about our own sense of values tumbling...This will define who we are, this is a defining moment for us, and there's lots to distract us.

"This is outrageous, it can't be happening and it must be stopped."

Indeed, despite high profile coverage of the humanitarian disaster, including the presence of prominent western journalists in the region and the involvement in celebrities, funding is still a problem.

Byrs said the $2.4 billion general appeal for the Horn of Africa is now only 46 per cent funded, with $ 1.1 billion received and $ 1.3 billion still needed. With regards to Somalia, food operations are funded to 57 per cent, water and sanitation to 35 per cent, nutrition to 45 per cent, health to 26 per cent and livelihoods to 18 per cent.

Some agencies are severely under-funded for this high-profile emergency, which impacts as many as 12 million people in several countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on donors for $29 million to respond to the health aspects of the situation in the Horn of Africa. So far, only $ 6 million has been received, said Tarek Jasarevic of WHO.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is said to be set to run out of funds for the Horn of Africa emergency within weeks if more resources are not received soon.

FAO says it will host a high-level operational meeting on August 18 in Rome to agree on urgent measures in response to the worsening crisis in the Horn of Africa. It come on the heels of an Emergency Ministerial-level Meeting on the Horn of Africa held in Rome on July 25 and sets the scene for a pledging conference called by the African Union in Addis Ababa on August 25.

Tuesday
Aug092011

U.N. Agencies Bring Much Needed Aid to Somalia and Ask International Community for Help (NEWS BRIEF) 

(HN, August 9, 2011) The World Food Program (WFP) is sending 800 metric tons of high energy biscuits to East Africa to help fight the famine in Somalia.

On Tuesday, the U.N. food agency said that the series of nine airlifts will be enough to feed 1.6 million people for a day. The biscuits are being delivered to Kenya for onward delivery throughout the Horn of Africa.

More than 12 million people are suffering from the effects of drought in East Africa.

The first United Nations relief shipment in five years arrived in Mogadishu Monday, August 8, 2011, less than a week after the U.N. declared three new famine areas in South Somalia. The shipment, which also contained 31 tons of shelter materials, is expected to provide aid to approximately 470,000 people in Mogadishu affected by famine.

The U.N. estimates that there are more than 3.2 million people now in immediate need of assistance and is calling on donor countries to assist with funding. 

"We need the funding support to continue to enable us to replenish our emergency stocks inside Somalia as they are being rapidly depleted as we deliver much-needed aid across southern Somalia", Bruno Geddo, the U.N. refugee Agency's (UNHCR) representative to Somalia said yesterday. 

For more information about how you can help with food and medical aid  in the Horn of Africa click here, and here

-HUMNEWS Staff 

Friday
Aug052011

Famine in Somalia: Children Pay the Greatest Price (NEWS BRIEF) 

(HN, August 5, 2011) The International Red Cross is asking for $86 million in donations to help feed the people of Somalia.

Many Somalis, starving and searching for safety, are risking their lives to get to camps which are now spreading all over the capital of Mogadishu. Others continue to cross into Kenya and taking up residence in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp which is currently home to 420,000 people. It’s official capacity is 90,000.

Children are paying the greatest price in this crisis. The United Nations says 640,000 children are acutely malnourished and calculates that, in the worst hit areas, ten percent of children under the age of 5 could perish in the coming weeks.

The U.S. estimates the drought and famine in Somalis have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5 in the last 90 days in southern Somalia alone.

World Food Program Executive Director, Josette Sheeren, warned in a article published on the WFP site on July 24th that “In the Horn (of Africa), we could lose a generation. Those that survive could be affected deeply” she said. It is particularly critical for young children to get the nutrition they need as their brains develop.  

To make matters worse access to aid is a huge problem in Somalia. David Orr, of the WFP told Al Jazeera that the largest problem continues to be access – “the worst of the famine, which is in the south is very difficult area to access”.

The access to aid is primarily impeded by the hardline Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, whose control of much of southern Somalia and ties to al-Qaeda discourages Western aid.

The U.N. refugee agency reported on Friday that al-Shabaab is boosting its ranks in the region by giving people money at a time of rising food prices and as other options dwindle for Somali families who cannot find handouts or afford to pay for food themselves.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton called on the militant organization al-Shabaab, which controls much of the southern section of Somalia, to offer Western aid workers “unfettered access” to more than three million famine victims.

On Friday Hillary Clinton said Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will visit Kenya this weekend to lead a U.S. fact-finding mission to East Africa to see what more America can do help victims of the famine sweeping the region.

The foreign minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, called for an urgent meeting of Muslim nations to discuss the famine in Africa. He said the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation could meet in Istanbul or in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the crisis.  

 -      To help and learn more about aid needed in Somalia and the Horn of Africa click here and here

 -      HUMNews Staff 

Wednesday
Aug032011

UN: Somali Refugees on the Rise as UN Envoy Calls for Somalis to Pull Together (NEWS BRIEF)

Recently arrived refugees wait in the shade outside the Dagahaley camp reception centre (Photo: UN News Center)(HN, August 3, 2011) A senior United Nations official has appealed to all Somalis, both inside and outside the country, to work to support the ongoing peace process and alleviate the plight of those suffering from famine, while pledging the world body's support in the coming days. 

“This is a time of great crisis, but also of rare opportunity. It is a time for everyone to pull together to help those suffering and to work towards a better future for all,” Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, said in a letter addressed to the Somali diaspora.

“I appeal to all those who are able – Somalis and the international community alike – to give as much as they can during this Holy Month to feed the hungry, heal the sick and prevent the famine spreading further,” he stated, referring to the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan that began on Monday.

The UN has estimated that the number of Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa has topped 860,000, many of them forced out by the ongoing drought and famine. 

The agency has reported that since January, 125,000 Somalis have fled to Kenya, and another 76,000 to Ethiopia. Earlier Somali refugees were largely forced out by fighting between government forces and insurgents.

Somalia is at the center of the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years. Earlier this week, the UN warned that the famine in two areas of southern Somalia could spread to five or six more regions unless there is a massive and immediate response from the international community.

Drought in the Horn of Africa, has left large areas of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djbouti ravaged, leaving an estimated 12.4 million people in need of humanitarian aid. 

In addition to those Somalis dealing with famine, the U.N. refugee agency says another 1.5 million Somalis are internally displaced, mostly in Somalia's south-central region due to the instability in the country. 

The international community has been stressing the need for a strategy to restore peace and stability in the country, which has not seen a fully functioning national government since 1991. 

Mr. Mahiga noted that despite recent progress on the political front, one of the contributing factors to the famine has been the ongoing fighting in the country. Some of the extremists are continuing their efforts to intimidate the population by preventing the movement of people from the worst-hit areas. 

“We call for the humanitarian agencies to be given unhindered access to all areas to provide desperately needed help,” he wrote, adding that the insecurity in many areas means that aid workers take huge risks to make their life-saving deliveries.

-HUMNews Staff / UN News

Sunday
Jul242011

Horn of Africa Famine 'Immoral' - UN (REPORT - UPDATED)

A Somali woman arrives at a refugee camp with her infant. UNICEF has called the ongoing famine and drought as a children catastrophe. CREDIT: FAO(HN, - UPDATED July 25, 2011) - A senior UN official has described the ongoing famine in parts of Somalia as "immoral."

Cristina Amaral, the head of emergency operations in Africa for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who has been raising the alarm on the spreading drought in the Horn of Africa since last November, is calling for long-term investment to help farmers resist droughts and international intervention to bring peace to war-torn Somalia.

"When we have a declaration of famine in the 21st century, we should consider this immoral," Amaral was quoted as saying in an interview.

She made the remarks on the eve of an emergency meeting today (Monday) in Rome to address the escalating crisis in the Horn of Africa and mobilize international support. FAO's 191 member countries, other UN agencies and international organizations, development banks and non-governmental organizations are attending.

Livestock carcasses mark turn of this drought from bad to deadly in Wajir, Kenya. Credit: Josette Sheeran/WFPAccess to war-torn Somalia is crucial to dealing with the crisis, Amaral said.  "Without access to south Somalia, we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg — those refugees arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia," Amaral said. "There are many more — we estimate 3.7 million — that need emergency assistance," she added.

Last week, the UN declared a famine in two parts of southern Somalia: the Bakool agropastoral livelihood zones and all areas of Lower Shabelle.

This morning (Monday), FAO chief, Jacques Diouf, said nothing short of "massive" action will save the millions of people at risk.

"The catastrophic situation demands massive and urgent international aid," he said.

The head of the World Food Programme (WFP), Josette Sheeran, who just visited three drought-affected countries, including Somalia, said the Rome-based agency is currently reaching about 1.5 million Somalis with emergency food assistance, including several hundred thousand in Mogadishu, the capital. However access is still difficult: WFP alone has lost 14 staff since 2008 in the war-torn country.

Sheeran said the long, dangerous trip out of the famine regions in southern Somalia is claiming many lives, particularly of children too young and weakened by malnutrition to survive the journey. She described the condition of children as "the worst I have ever seen."

She said: “Over half the women I talked to had to leave children to die, or had children die” during their journeys, Sheeran said.  “These are becoming roads of death.”

“In the Horn (of Africa), we could lose a generation. Those that survive could be affected deeply,” she said.

According to the FAO, famine is classified using a tool called the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. according to three main criteria: severe lack of food access for large populations, acute malnutrition rates exceeding 30 percent of the population and Crude Death Rate exceeding 2 people per 10,000 population per day. Currently in some parts of Bakool and Lower Shabelle acute malnutrition tops 50 percent and death rates exceed six per 10,000 population per day.

A rare combination of conflict and insecurity, limited access for humanitarian organizations, successive harvest failures and a lack of food assistance have jeopardized an entire population in southern Somalia, FAO says. The country has suffered war on and off since 1991.Innovation on the front-lines of hunger: Somali NGO brings water to displaced people in donkey-cart. Credit: Josette Sheeran/WFP

The international community requires around $1 billion to deal with the crisis. The FAO is appealing for $120 million to respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa and provide agricultural emergency assistance.

The current crisis affects the whole Horn of Africa region including the northern part of Kenya and southern parts of Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Karamoja Region of Uganda where large areas are classified as in a state of humanitarian emergency.

Wednesday
Jul202011

Horn of Africa Famine Declared (REPORT)

Key Facts:

  • 10.7 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance
  • Extremely high levels of child malnutrition are being reported in multiple locations
  • Relief operations need to be scaled up, as access to worst-affected areas of Somalia becomes a possibility
  • Total humanitarian requirements are $1.87bn: about $1bn is still needed

 

A severely malnourished baby lies in the paediatric unit at a hospital in the Rift Valley Province. CREDIT: UNICEF(HN, July 20, 2011) - Famine exists in two regions of southern Somalia: southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle. Across the country, nearly half of the Somali population – 3.7 million people – are now in crisis, of whom an estimated 2.8 million people are in the south.

The declaraton was made at a press conference in Nairobi today by the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden.

In the last few months, tens of thousands of Somalis have died as a result of causes related to malnutrition, the majority of whom were children. Affected by consecutive droughts and ongoing conflict, malnutrition rates are currently the highest in the world, with peaks of 50 per cent in certain areas of southern Somalia.  Famine is declared when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 per cent; more than 2 people per 10,000 die per day; and people are not able to access food and other basic necessities.

“If we don’t act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks,” stressed HC Bowden. Noting that the lack of resources is alarming, Bowden continued, “Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death for children and their families in the famine affected areas”.

While UN humanitarian agencies have welcomed the recent statement by Al Shabaab requesting international assistance in southern Somalia, the inability of food agencies to work in the region since early 2010 has prevented the UN from reaching the very hungry – especially children – and has contributed to the current crisis.

Despite challenges, humanitarian agencies are working hard to respond. In an effort to reach more children with life-saving interventions, the UN and its partners have scaled up emergency nutrition, water and sanitation, and immunization efforts to combat malnutrition and reduce disease. To expedite the delivery of supplies into the worst-affected areas, the UN has started airlifting urgently needed medical, nutrition and water supplies.

The most affected areas of Somalia are in the south, particularly the region of Lower Shabelle, Middle and Lower Juba, Bay, Bakool, Benadir, Gedo and Hiraan, which host an estimated 310,000 acutely malnourished children. In southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle today, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 per cent, with under-five deaths exceeding 6 per 10,000 per day in some areas.

Nearly half of the population in Somalia is facing a humanitarian crisis and is in urgent need of assistance. The number of people in crisis has increased by over one million in the last six months. Over 166,000 Somalis have fled the country to seek assistance and refuge in neighbouring countries since the start of the year, with over 100,000 of those fleeing since May. So far in July alone, almost 40,000 new Somali arrivals have been registered in refugee camps in the region.

“More than ever, Somali people need and deserve our full attention. At this time of crisis, we must make exceptional efforts to support Somalis wherever they are in need and expect that all parties will do the same” said Bowden.

- Via UN OCHA

Tuesday
Jul192011

UN To Declare Famine in Horn of Africa - CBC (REPORT)

Nomadic girls and women fill containers with water from a large puddle in the middle of the road near the town of Wajid, in the southern Bakool Region of Somalia. CREDIT: UNICEF(HN, July 19, 2011 - UPDATED 1815GMT) - The United Nations is poised to declare a famine in parts of Somalia, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported late last night.

While a famine is expected to be declared in Somalia Wednesday in Nairobi, CBC reported, as many as 12 million people are impacted in the unstable country, as well as Kenya, Ethiopia, and neighbouring countries.

UN sources in Kenya confirmed that a famine would be declared at any time and that all agencies were gearing up for the upgrading of the crisis.

The drought is the worst the region has seen in about six decades, raising memories of the devastating Ethiopian famine in 1984-1985, in which more than one million people died.

CBC reported that food insecurity has already reached emergency levels — one level below famine. "Famine/catastrophe" is the worst-case scenario on a five-level scale used to gauge food security.

Fresh details of the situation in the region are expected this morning during the regularly-scheduled UN media briefing in Geneva.

The UN employs several indicators to declare a famine, including acute malnutrition in more than 30 per cent of children, at least two deaths per 10,000 people every day and access to less than four litres of water a day. Large-scale displacement of people, civil strife and pandemic illness are also taken into consideration.

At a UN media briefing in Geneva today monitored by HUMNEWS, Paul Spiegel, Chief of Section, Public Health, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), seemed to suggest a famine would be declared imminently.

Spiegel said that the situation in Dolo Ado - a transit camp in southern Ethiopia on the Kenya-Somali border - was very dire, and he had been taken aback by what he had seen there. A new camp called Kobe, where the new arrivals are placed, has seen an extremely high mortality rate of 7.4 deaths per 10,000 people/day in June. The baseline for Sub-Saharan Africa was 0.5 and an emergency is generally declared at greater than or equal to 1 death. The preponderance of the deaths are among under-five children.

The malnutrition rates, one of the major causes of death, is extremely high. The severe malnutrition rate was 26.8 per cent in June, an extremely rare and very high finding, Spiegel said.

Somalia has been particularly hard hit by the current crisis, with thousands of people fleeing the country every day - at the rate of more than 2,000-a-day into Kenya and Ethiopia. Most of those fleeing are women and children, many clinging to life from acute malnutrition.

"Added to the drought, this is a region which suffers insecurity and conflict, population growth, poverty and over-utilization of land," said Valeria Amos, the UN emergency relief co-ordinator for humanitarian affairs.

Aid groups and UN agencies are calling for more assistance to meet the mounting need. Roughly $835 million US has been received to assist people in the Horn of Africa, but $1 billion more is needed, the UN said. CBC said the United States has been slow in committing funds.

Raouf Mazou, Deputy Director, East Africa and the Horn of Africa Region, UNHCR, said at a media briefing in Geneva today monitored by HUMNEWS that there are definitely not enough resources to respond to the needs. An appeal for about $136 million was issued last week, but so far only about 17 per cent of what was required is available.

Canada has contributed roughly $22 million, but is expected to announce new funding within a week, the CBC's Brian Stewart, a distinguished senior fellow at the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, said.

"Normally Canada is expected to pay up to four per cent of major humanitarian emergencies," he added.

Stewart, who was one of the first journalists to alert the world to the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s, said the key need is to buy sufficient food and water from inside Africa.

"Shipments from abroad take far too long and take away from Africa's own potential to deliver good and fast supplies," he noted. A UNICEF official said one of the main constraints to helping women and children in Somalia is restrictions on access, caused by the ongoing unrest.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said today its Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, is leaving for the region today, first visiting Ethiopia before proceeding to Kenya and Somalia.