Archive for the ‘Horn of Africa Food Crisis’ Category

The 2006 Horn of Africa Food Crisis

The 2006 Horn of Africa food crisis is an acute shortage of food affecting four Horn of Africa countries: Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia. The United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated on January 6, 2006, that more than 11 million people in these countries may be affected by an impending widespread famine, largely attributed to a severe drought, and exacerbated by military conflicts in the region.


Horn of Africa Relying on Food Aid

More than 14 million people across the Horn of Africa are relying on food aid and other assistance to survive a devastating drought and rising food prices, aid officials said yesterday. The crisis is especially dire in Ethiopia and Somalia, two of the poorest countries in the world.

Many are surviving on one meal a day; others choose between feeding their children and paying to send them to school.

“This had led to more than belt-tightening,” Mark Bowden, the UN’s aid chief for Somalia, told journalists in Nairobi. “People are reducing their food intake. . . . We have only months before we go into a major crisis.”

Bowden estimates that 3.5 million people, half of Somalia’s population, will need food assistance by the end of 2008. The UN has issued an aid appeal for $637 million for Somalia, but so far has gotten about a third of that.

The worldwide food crisis is threatening to push the number of hungry people in the world toward 1 billion, despite a recent UN summit pledge to reduce trade barriers and boost agricultural production.

In the Horn of Africa, food production is also hampered by drought – a double blow for Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti. In Ethiopia, more than 80 percent of people live off the land.

Peter Smerdon, Nairobi-based spokesman for World Food Program, said there are fears the September-October rains, crucial to ease the crisis here, will not come.

“If those rains fail,” he said, “the number in need in those regions may well explode.”

Responding to the crisis in Somalia is particularly dangerous because the arid, impoverished country has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a socialist dictator in 1991. The warlords then turned their clan-based militias on each other, plunging the country into chaos.

Violence against aid workers in Somalia also has dramatically increased this year, with at least five workers killed and several others kidnapped for ransom.

The food problem in the Horn is also spreading further west. Several West African nations across the high desert-like region called the Sahel, just below the Sahara Desert, are experiencing a decline this year in food reserves just as global food prices are soaring.

The so-called “lean season” that begins around June has been marked by near-empty grain stores there, with the next harvest not due until around September. Invasions of locusts and poor rains in recent years have worsened the condition, which leads to deadly malnutrition among the area’s young children.


The Hungry Horn


The Washington Post reported on the crisis in the “hungry horn.” In Somalia, U.N. officials predict that half of the population, about 3.5 million people, will need food aid. The New York Times explains the hunger is driven by rampant political insecurity, spikes in global food prices, devaluation of the local currency, and a severe drought.

The World Food Program is struggling to keep up, having already doubled the amount of food it distributes in Somalia and needing an additional 369,000 metric tons of food in Ethiopa. But Doctors Without Borders, a medical aid organization, says the situation just keeps getting worse as cereal prices in the Horn in the last year surged by as much as 375 percent. To make things worse, the drought has killed of most livestock, forcing formerly self-sufficient people to wait in line for food aid.

Hungry children in the Horn of Africa

The next rainy season isn’t due till October, and the wells and watering holes that the people and animals depend on during the dry season are already drying up. Even the camels are hard pressed to survive.

Mercy Corps’ country director in Somalia says “It’s a life or death situation right now.” A 72-year-old herder says it’s “the worst I’ve ever seen.”

International Medical Corps, another international medical aid organization in Somalia, is predicting grave starvation risks, with a recent 400 percent rise in the number of severely malnourished young children.

And the current drought — and its problems — are probably here to stay. Researchers have discovered that global warming is drying out the Horn of Africa — and it’s happening much faster than anyone anticipated.

What will happen when current drought becomes a permanent shift to desert conditions? Somalia is only the first. Ethiopia is soon to follow.

Whether it is Somalia’s food crisis, the multi-year drought in Australia, or flooding in the American bread basket, climate change is going to vastly affect the world’s food markets.