Developing strategies to end hunger

Horn of Africa Hunger Emergency: Somali Children Walk for Days or Weeks to Reach Relief Camps

In some parts of drought-stricken Somalia, one child in 10 is at risk of starving to death, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In a recent report, ICRC stated that the number is twice as high as it was in March.

Malnutrition rates are believed to be significantly higher in several other areas of the country, where relief organizations have not been allowed to operate. 

Photo Credit: Oxfam East Africa

Child malnutrition levels in the Horn of Africa are now the highest in the world. Even in traditionally food-producing parts of Somalia, nearly 11 percent of children younger than 5 have severe acute malnutrition.

Additional feeding centers are being set up by the Somali Red Crescent (an ICRC affiliate), but relief workers are struggling to keep up with the exodus of hungry refugees. Adults who arrive in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, where border camps are swelling, report that children have died en route. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there are 11 million people in the Horn of Africa affected by the worst drought in decades.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has created global food aid prepositioning sites in order to respond more rapidly to food emergencies. Stockpiling food aid and supplies in or near regions with historically high emergency food needs allows USAID to respond quickly to disasters. Six sites worldwide, including one in Kenya, are prepared to release food aid as needed.

USAID’s Assistant Administrator recently testified before a House subcommittee about the agency’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and its capabilities in identifying crisis conditions. FEWS NET analyzes historical and current rainfall, cropping patterns, livestock health, market prices, and malnutrition rates. FEWS NET identified and warned of the approaching Horn of Africa crisis as early as August 2010.  Although the focus is currently on Somalia, a regional crisis is developing since countries in the region are deeply interconnected in an arc of drought, crop failure, and livestock mortality. The crisis is further complicated by longstanding conflict that continues to drive refugees into already drought-stressed regions of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti.


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