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Wednesday:  December 17, 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 Horn of Africa (17)

Friday
May182012

#DearG8: Summit must focus on food security (PERSPECTIVE) 

 

(Video: An explanation of food insecurity/British Red Cross)

By Shenggen Fan

As the G8 leaders meet in the United States this week, agriculture and food security must be at the forefront of the discussions, and ways to prevent price volatility, including halting grain-based biofuels production, establishing grain reserves for emergency use, eliminating food export bans and increasing the transparency of food and agricultural market information - should be addressed.

Most importantly, the G8 leaders should fulfill their commitments on global food security.

In 2009, G8 leaders made considerable financial commitments to global agriculture and food security, pledging to mobilize $22 billion over three years through a coordinated, comprehensive strategy focused on sustainable agriculture development. But as of May 2011, it was estimated that only 22 percent of these commitments had been disbursed.

In addition to the G8 leaders, the heads of states from Ethiopia, Ghana, Benin and Tanzania will take part in the summit discussions. The direct participation by these African leaders underscores the seriousness of the food security situation on the continent, where more than 220 million people are undernourished. Millions suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, a total of 100 million women and children are iron deficient, and 33 million children have Vitamin A deficiencies. The 2011 Global Hunger Index, a combined measure of the proportion of undernourishment, child malnutrition, and child mortality, shows that Sub-Saharan Africa is home to all the countries with "extremely alarming" scores and many of the countries with "alarming" scores.

In addition, it is projected that smallholder farmers, particularly those living in the highland areas and semi-arid savannahs in Sub-Saharan Africa, face increasing natural resource scarcity risks, including land degradation, which can cost as much as 10 percent of national GDP. Many parts of the region are extremely vulnerable to both man-made and natural shocks. Last year, more than 13 million people were affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa. This year more than 15 million people across seven countries in the Sahel region are already suffering from severe food insecurity or at risk.

It is crucial that developed countries take action to fight starvation in Africa. The cost of hunger is high, and the damage is irreversible.

For over three decades now, the International Food Policy Research Institute has been engaged in promoting the transformation of smallholder agriculture across Africa through evidence-based research and support to country-driven development initiatives. Priority areas include: building capacity for agricultural and food policy analysis and supporting country-led development strategies; improving nutrition along value chains to increase poor people's access to nutritious foods and increasing the availability, access, and intake of nutrient-rich, biofortified staple foods for the poor; resilience-enhancing schemes such as productive social safety nets, weather insurance index, and other risk management tools that help reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience to shocks and contribute to overall long-term growth and prosperity.

Technological innovations such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and biofortification are crucial to increasing agricultural productivity, building resilience to weather-related shocks, enhancing the nutritional value of food crops, and ensuring food safety. Biotechnology has great potential to improve crop yield, nutrition and resilience to weather, which will be even more frequent in the future due to climate change.

As the world's population increases, there is enormous pressure on the planet's ecosystems. The most reasonable solution to feeding the ever-growing population is sustainably producing more food on the existing land. Scaled-up investments in science and technology and support for improved country capacities are essential to accelerate progress and achieve development objectives. While the governments of developing countries have taken important steps to boost food security-related investments, support from the G8 countries remains critical.

- This commentary first appeared at XinhuaNet

RELATED:

New G8-African Alliance For Food Security And Nutrition Launched

Cash-strapped G8 looks to private sector in hunger fight

Private sector organizations commit to support the G8 food security agenda

Oxfam: G8 Food Security Alliance Answers Question Hungry People Have Not Asked

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

Monday
Oct032011

Early Warning System Inadequate in Horn of Africa Famine (NEWS BRIEF)

Josette Sheeran of WFP Visits Horn Of Africa, CREDIT: WFP(HN, October 3, 2011) - The tardiness of news organization to put the ongoing Horn of Africa crisis on their story agendas is among the reasons cited for the disaster getting out of control.

The observation was made by a panelist at a Red Cross panel discussion over the weekend at the Commonwealth Club in London.

Even though organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) - led by the very media savvy chief Josette Sheeran - sounded the alarm early on, it was observed that media organizations were slow to pick up on the rapidly growing crisis - which is shaping up to be on of the worst humanitarian disasters in a generation, impacting more than 13 million people in several countries in East Africa.

Aid agencies too were described as being too slow to mobilize on the Horn. Part of the problem was the complexity of the crisis - brought on by what some have described as a "perfect storm" of lack of rains, spiralling food prices and insecurity in Somalia - ground zero of the crisis.

"The early warning system was very effective, but the drought response was not adequate," said David Peppiatt, head of humanitarian policy at the British Red Cross.

If something positive has emerged from the crisis, it was that more attention has been placed on food insecurity and especially the need to invest in agriculture and particularly small farmers, who produce 90% of Africa's food, Peppiatt said.

Mike Wooldridge, the BBC's veteran world affairs correspondent, who has covered past famines, echoed the need for better management of agriculture in the region. "There has never been a greater time of opportunity for agriculture," 

On the media's handling of the crisis, Woolridge said first-hand reporting was crucial. Indeed, some large US media organizations, such as CNN and the three large networks, sent some of their top talent to the region during its early stages.

Woolridge cited an interview with Valerie Amos, the UN's head of humanitarian affairs, on the BBC programme The World This Weekend on 3 July, for galvanising media interest in the story.

During a question and answer session, a participant criticized the African Union and its member countries for their slow response.

To be sure, the response of donors to the crisis has been woefully inadequate - nearly three months after the first declaration of a famine.

According to data collected by The Guardian newspaper, the crisis faces a $671m shortfall. The UN has estimated that $2.5bn in aid is needed for the humanitarian response.

A big reason for the lack of funding may be scepticism among the general public in the developed world.

According to a poll on how aid mney is spent and released late last month by the British Red Cross, more than 70 percent of Britons say they are not well-informed about how humanitarian aid is managed and spent. And only 4 percent of the British public feel very well-informed and 20 percent quite well-informed. A large majority - 71 percent - say they do not know much about how aid is used.

"This is extremely worrying," Peppiatt said in a statement. "It is essential that those who give so generously understand how money is being spent and that lives are being saved as a result of the work of aid agencies."

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies

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)

Saturday
Sep102011

Horn of Africa Drought Case Load Jumps to Over 13 Million People (NEWS BRIEF)

Somali refugee children at the registration centre in Dolo Ado, southern Ethiopia. CREDIT: WFP/Natasha Scripture(HN, September 10, 2011) - As the drought in the Horn of Africa spreads, the number of people affected has jumped to 13.3 million people, including more than 840,000 refugees.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance was previously pegged by the UN at 12.4 million in four countries, Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told a media briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS.

She said that boosting the numbers is the conflict in the Blue Nile State of eastern Sudan, which has displaced close to 20,000 Sudanese refugees into Ethiopia in early September. Humanitarian agencies are currently allocating some of their resources and personnel to this new emergency.

In Djibouti, increasing food prices are having an increasingly serious impact on the country, Byrs said. The country imports 95 per cent of its food, and about 146,000 people are in need of food assistance in the north-western regions of the country.

To be sure, the drought and food crisis has caused massive displacement in the worst-hit country - Somalia. UNHCR estimates that more than 917,000 Somalis now live as refugees in the four neighbouring countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. Approximately one in every three was forced to flee this year alone. Altogether, more than 1.4 million Somalis were displaced within the country. This makes a third of Somalia's estimated 7.5 million people displaced.

Analysts blame the convergence of civil unrest, climate chance and rising food prices as the cause of the ongoing crisis.

Despite heavy media coverage of the crisis, the UN's Horn of Africa Appeal is still in need of substantial funding. Byrs said it is 63 per cent funded with $1.56 billion received out of the $2.5 billion requested. 

Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Programme said since the beginning of July, the UN agency has assisted some 7.4 million people and that it is ramping up to reach more than 9.6 million people over the coming weeks. In Somalia, WFP is focusing its efforts over the next months on providing badly needed food assistance to 1.9 million people in areas to which WFP had access. So far the organization had assisted close to 1 million people. 

WFP has received $385 million in announced contributions, its budget shortfall for the Horn of Africa appeal for the next six months is US$215 million.

- UN, HUMNEWS staff

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

Saturday
Jul302011

UN Calls for More Funds to Save Lives Across Horn of Africa (REPORT) 

According to the United Nations more than 12 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti are currently in need of humanitarian aid and that number is expected to rise. 

"If we are to avoid this crisis becoming an even bigger catastrophe, we must act now" said Valarie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which issued yesterday's appeal. 

The emergency is expected to persist for at least three to four months, and the number of people needing humanitarian assistance could increase by as much as 25 per cent, OCHA said, putting strain on the work of UN agencies.

An OCHA spokesperson said in Geneva that the request for funds lifts the Horn of Africa appeal to a total of $2.4 billion, of which $1 billion has been received so far.

OCHA reports that, driven by the worst drought in 60 years, some 1,300 new Somali refugees arrive daily in Kenya, several hundred more flee to Ethiopia and at least 1,000 others crowd into the capital, Mogadishu, fleeing not only drought but continued fighting between Government forces and rebels.

“Women and children are forced to walk weeks under gruelling conditions to reach safety, and are arriving in refugee camps in appalling health, overwhelming the already stretched capacity to respond,” the agency said.

The agency also said that outright famine, declared recently in two areas of southern Somalia, “could spread throughout the rest of the south within one or two months, if the humanitarian response did not increase in line with rising needs.”

Drought conditions in Kenya’s northern and north-eastern districts have deteriorated further after the poor March-June rains. The food crisis is expected to peak in August and September.

In Ethiopia, La Niña weather conditions have diminished two consecutive rainy seasons, resulting in rapidly deteriorating food security in lowlands of southern and south-eastern areas, as well as in parts of the central highlands. In Djibouti, the drought has forced growing numbers of pastoralists and people in rural areas to migrate to urban areas, where food insecurity is rising.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that its emergency airlifts were flying tons of specialized nutritional food for malnourished children in Mogadishu and other food supplies in southern Somalia, and it was continuing to feed more than 1.6 million people in Kenya.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said six flights and two ships have delivered more than 653 tons of corn soya blend, and about 230 tons of therapeutic food to treat severely malnourished children. It is also building up its food pipeline which already supports 500 nutrition centres in southern Somalia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was working to accommodate some 3,000 people who since Monday settled spontaneously on the edge of Dadaab refugee complex, already the world’s largest refugee camp.

A spokesperson said the refugee agency is “very concerned about the protection of civilians” in Mogadishu amid renewed fighting between pro- and anti-Government forces. An offensive by pro-Government forces has increased the risk to the capital’s citizens as well as the estimated 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had recently fled drought and famine in neighbouring regions.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, today welcomed the Somali parliament’s approval of a new Cabinet and said the new Government must “immediately” tackle the problems facing the country.

Augustine P. Mahiga said the formation of the Cabinet “sends a strong, constructive signal and represents a positive start for the new Somali administration.”

“The new Government must immediately tackle the most critical tasks with the objective of creating a national vision based on a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a focus on the delivery of services,” he said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WFP today issued a joint statement calling for a longer view of the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa.

“Beyond the emergency, it will be necessary to put into place the long-term solutions needed to guarantee food security in the Horn of Africa. There will be no sustainable solution to the crisis without measures that enable the countries of the region to become food self-sufficient, develop food crop production and support pastoralism and massively reinvest in agriculture and livestock-raising in the region,” it said.

- UN News Center 

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.

Saturday
Jul162011

Horn of Africa Drought Threatens Millions (VIDEO REPORT)