Horn of Africa: A devastating drought
The world has watched in horror as the humanitarian disaster continues to
ravage 13 million people, making it our No. 4.
> Azad Essa Last Modified:
28 Dec 2011 15:32
Death, starvation and displacement cried some parts of Africa seeking the
world's attention and relief, as some 13 million people in the Horn of
Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya as well as pockets of
Uganda, Djibouti and Sudan, were affected by a drought
described as the worst in 60 years.
As entire regions dried up, the world watched in horror as tens of thousands
of farmers, mostly pastoralists, lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands
were forced to flee homes for survival, in search of food and shelter.
By mid-2011, between 800-1,000 refugees from Somalia were arriving at the
Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya or Dolo Ado in Ethiopia, on a daily basis,
setting off alarm bells that the Horn of Africa needed desperate and
immediate international attention, despite early warning systems (Six months
earlier, FEWS, had
warned of incessant food shortages in the region). The situation had
worsened drastically by the time international media descended on Dadaab to
tell the stories of women - who had left their husbands behind to mind over
cattle or protect property - walking hundreds of kilometres from Somalia,
which had often resulted in the deaths of their malnourished offsprings; and
the UN calculated that $2bn was required to avert a complete humanitarian
It is estimated that 250 children died every day from malnourishment, while
the death rate reached between 5 and 7 per
10,000 per day in parts of Somalia, forcing the UN to declare famine in
parts of Somalia: the first such declaration in three decades.
As the repercussions of food shortages took grip of the region, and
questions began to be asked over culpability over the existence of famine in
the 21st century, the humanitarian disaster soon became an agonising
reminder that the humanitarian disaster was a symptom of a larger story
involving a two-decade-long civil war that has devastated the very social
fabric of Somalia.
As it stands, Somalia remains without an effective central government or
health sector and has little infrastructure to manage the series of
environmental shocks, including drought and desertification and climate
change, that has severely affected the country and its inhabitants over the
Moreover, the continued insecurity in Somalia made conditions for
international relief agencies to operate incredibly difficult in a complex
environment where food aid has been effectively used as a
> political tool, as militia groups and Transitional Federal Government
(TFG) forces continue to struggle for supremacy in the country.
Nothing more expressed the complexity of this situation than documenting the
story of refugees who had left Somalia in 1991 when the country descended
into civil war, only to find themselves at the camp even after
20 years, now helping document new refugees. By December 2011, more than
152,000 refugees had arrived in Dadaab during the course of the year, taking
the total population to 444,000 in a camp originally designed to cater for
International media attention might have now shifted from the drought, but
two zones are still famine declared areas as the drought continues in parts
of southern and central Somalia.
The advent of Kenyan troops moving into Somalia, later followed by Ethiopian
forces, following a spate of kidnappings and attacks inside Kenya, allegedly
by militia group, al-Shabab, has added a new spin to the story.
The drought continues, but impatience grows over the lack of progress in
resolving Somalia's civil war. All eyes will be on Somalia in the New Year,
as the TFG mandate approaches an end, the country hopes to hold national
elections in 2012.
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Received on Wed Dec 28 2011 - 17:36:57 EST