Millions on brink
In the worst humanitarian crisis in
decades, an estimated 12.4 million
people face death by starvation in
the Horn of Africa. Already tens of
thousands have died in this famine
which threatens to spiral out of
control unless the world wakes up
and responds with generous
donations to relief agencies who
are ready and capable to extend
their operations in the region, but
are short of money.
At an emergency summit of the
Organization of the Islamic Cooperation
(OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, on 17 August
2011, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, made an impassioned plea to
Islamic countries to step up to the plate and bear some responsibility
for the famine in Somalia, which the UN is calling the worst in decades.
Millions face death by starvation and tens of thousands have already
Erdogan said that Islam dictates “that you do
not go to bed full if your neighbour is hungry”.
“If we had fulfilled our responsibilities,
would our brethren nation Somalia be in this
situation?” he asked. “This is not only a test
for the Somali people, it is a test for all
The UN says 3.2 million people are on the
brink of starvation. They are among the 12.4
million people across the wider region,
encompassing Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia,
who are in urgent need of food and humanitarian
According to the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), there are some
875,000 Somali refugees and asylum-seekers
in neighbouring countries, with Kenya,
Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti hosting more
than 90% of them. About 1.5 million more
Somalis are internally displaced, mostly in
the south-central region of the country.
At the conference OIC countries pledged
$350 million in aid to fight famine in
Responding to this commitment, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, OIC Secretary
General, said: “All in all we have secured
$350 million in pledges. We hope to raise the
commitments to $500 million.”
Erdogan, criticising the rich lifestyles of
some in the West, said: “If you ride a luxury
car you should be generous enough to people
who are struggling with hunger.
“I hope the efforts (of the OIC) will
mobilise the sleeping consciences. We hope
the Western world, which likes to boast
about its per capita income, shows its support
Reuters reports that US humanitarian aid
to the region this year so far has totalled
more than $580 million.
According to the UN, donors have so far
provided more than $1.3 billion to the relief
effort in the Horn of Africa, but just under
$1.2 billion was still needed.
Erdogan said Turkey would open six field
hospitals in Somalia and send 20 tonnes of
medication and 10 tonnes of food.
Despite relief efforts, famine spreads
Meanwhile, at a UN press briefing in New
York on 17 August, Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian
and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who
had just returned from Somalia and Kenya,
said: “We’ve demonstrated, I think, how
much can be accomplished when aid agencies
are given the resources they need and
can get to where they need to get to.
“But we’re faced with a still spreading
famine in Somalia and with such a scale of
suffering that every effort needs to be made
and sustained in the months ahead.
“Hot meals are being given every day to
almost 100,000 people. Half a million people
are getting clean water, which is crucial as we
seek to prevent the spread of cholera and
other diseases. An emergency measles vaccination
campaign to reach 88,000 children
and 46,000 women is already happening.
“Nonetheless, it is clear that even in
Mogadishu the famine has already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of
people and it
will kill many more if we do not further scale
up our efforts,” she stated.
“We need to get more food and nutritional
supplies, water, sanitation and hygiene equipment,
and medical care to those who are in
desperate need,” she added, while also noting
that the crisis is not limited to Somalia.
|Relief agencies call for urgent funding to cope with crisis
|The United Nations estimates that the total number of people in
need could rise up by 25% and surpass 15 million soon if urgent
action on all fronts is not taken, such as providing emergency
food, water and shelter.
International agency Oxfam says said the international
community is failing to keep pace with a crisis that is spiralling
out of control.
Action Against Hunger, an
international humanitarian organisation committed to
ending world hunger, says ongoing
relief efforts are insufficient
to counter the scope and severity
of the crisis gripping Somalia and
the rest of the eastern region.
In July Ban Ki-moon, UN
Secretary-General, made an
impassioned plea to the international
community to mobilise
resources to avert a humanitarian
catastrophe in Somalia.
“To save the lives of the people
at risk – the vast majority of them
women and children – we need
approximately US$1.6 billion in
aid,” Ban said in an op-ed
published in the Los Angeles
Times. “So far, international
donors have given only half that
amount. To turn the tide, to offer hope in the name of our common humanity, we
“This means everyone. I appeal to all nations – both those who
fund our work year-in and year-out, and those who do not traditionally
give through the multinational system – to step up to the
challenge,” he said.
OCHA said in August that
the appeal for funds to respond
to the famine in the Horn of
Africa was only 44% funded.
Jens Oppermann, Action
Against Hunger’s country
director in Somalia said: “The
crisis will only grow in magnitude
and severity unless immediate
funding is made available
and measures are taken to
enable aid agencies to further
scale up relief efforts.”
Reiterating the Secretary-
General’s call, Oxfam, in early
August, called on governments
and donors to act with greater
urgency in the face of a deteriorating
crisis in East Africa.
Donors must move beyond
promises and immediately turn
money pledged into action on
the ground, the organisation
|What is famine?
|On 3 August the United Nations declared a famine in
three more areas in drought-ravaged Somalia, bringing to
five the number of regions in the Horn of Africa country
where acute malnutrition and starvation have already
claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people.
The five regions are: The Afgoye corridor outside
Mogadishu, the capital itself, the Middle Shabelle region,
the Lower Shabelle and the southern Bakool region.
A famine can be declared only when certain measures
of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. They are: at
least 20% of households in an area face extreme food
shortages with a limited ability to cope; acute malnutrition
rates exceed 30%; and the death rate exceeds two
persons per day per 10,000 persons.
The vicious cycle of hunger – ill-health – poverty
means that fewer resources are dedicated to health care
just as health needs increase as a result of poor diet. Lack
of water and population displacements, which result in
precarious sanitation, further increases the risk of communicable
diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhoea,
acute respiratory infections and measles.
Responding to the malnutrition crisis
As drought continues to affect
millions of people in parts of the
Horn of Africa, Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF)/ Doctors
Without Borders is seeing a
dramatic effect on the Somali
population. Poor harvests, dying
livestock, rising food prices,
continuing violence and
chronic poverty have all
contributed to a sudden rise in
malnutrition rates both inside
Somalia and in the overcrowded
refugee camps in Kenya and
In south-central Somalia where MSF is running nine medicalnutritional
have witnessed a sharp increase
in malnutrition cases in various locations.
Growing numbers of families are coming
great distances to reach MSF’s hospitals
and therapeutic feeding centres, and in
certain locations MSF feeding centres are
receiving up to seven times more patients
compared to last year.
“Most of our therapeutic feeding programmes in Somalia are running over
capacity, with more than 3,400 children
currently enrolled in our nutritional
programmes,” says Joe Belliveau, MSF
operational manager. “We are running
emergency nutritional projects in several
locations in the Lower Juba valley region,
in Galgaduud, Mudug, Lower Shabelle,
and Bay regions. [During] the past weeks
we’ve seen a sharp rise in cases with some
people travelling hundreds of kilometres
to get access to health care and treatment
for their malnourished children.”
Aid and shelter
With limited assistance available in
Somalia, the only solution for thousands of
Somalis has been to take a long and
perilous trek in the hope of reaching
refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.
In Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex, the
largest camp in the world, around 1,400 Somalis continue to arrive every day.
camps, originally built to cater for 90,000
people, now house more than 380,000
people. As the camps are overwhelmed
with the sheer number of new arrivals,
most newcomers are forced to fend for
themselves in the surrounding desert until
they can be registered and assisted.
In an assessment on the outskirts of
one of Dadaab’s camp sites, MSF teams
found extremely high malnutrition rates
among children arriving from Somalia.
As many as 37.7% of the children
between six months and five years old
were suffering from acute malnutrition.
Of these, 17.5% were severely affected,
with high risk of death. Children up to
the age of 10 were also showing higher
rates of malnutrition.
“I expected to find a difficult situation,
but not a catastrophic one,” said Anita Sackl, coordinator of the assessment. “The
majority of new arrivals actually fled
[Somalia] because they had nothing to eat
– not just because their country has been
at war for decades.”
In Dadaab camps, MSF is currently
treating 2,402 children in its ambulatory
therapeutic feeding programme and 138
children in its inpatient therapeutic feeding centre. An additional 5,047
with moderate acute malnutrition
are enrolled in MSF’s supplementary
feeding programme. There are now
around 10,000 people in MSF’s feeding
programme in the camps.
Ethiopia and Djibouti
Thousands of Somalis have also been
crossing the border into Ethiopia and
Djibouti. In Liben camps in southern
Ethiopia, MSF screened children under 5
years old on their arrival in the camps and
found that 37% were malnourished. MSF
teams are treating more than 7,000 children
in nutritional programmes and
providing primary healthcare to refugees at
In response to the worsening situation, MSF has been scaling up its medical assistance
in the refugee camps, and is
preparing to scale up its assistance inside
Somalia. MSF has also been urging all
parties inside Somalia, neighbouring countries,
and the international community to
significantly improve assistance to the
Somali population in the region and to
remove all hurdles that currently prevent
the expansion of independent aid inside
of upload: 18th Oct 2011