Update: Last week, we reported on the World Food Programme's work in the Horn of Africa, where millions of lives are at risk due to famine. One of the biggest problems facing relief efforts is the presence of al-Qaeda-affiliated group al-Shabab, which controls many of the hardest-hit areas of Somalia, making it difficult for aid agencies to deliver food and support to the people who need it most.
Because of U.S. sanctions, some aid groups feared they would face criminal action if they took food and supplies into areas where members of al-Shabab could put them to use. Today, United States government officials announced that the U.S. would relax sanctions against al-Shabab so that aid groups can deliver food to famine-stricken parts of Somalia without fear of prosecution. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the changes haven't been finalized.
Meanwhile, aid agencies are struggling to create temporary housing for the massive influx of mainly Somalian refugees to the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya. At home, the Canadian government has stated that it will match donations made by Canadian citizens between July 6 and September 16, in addition to the $72 million it has already pledged in aid dollars.
What's Being Done In The Horn Of Africa
Update: Earlier this week Canada promised to donate an additional $50 million to East Africa famine relief efforts. That brings Canada's total donations to $72 million. But the crisis is worsening, and every day, the number of 'acutely malnourished' rises.
As of right now, more than 11 million are affected.
The UN's World Food Programme (that George works with as an Ambassador Against Hunger) announced today that they are extending its operations to feed 11.5 million people, and plans for six months of necessary action in areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya - including their refugee camps.
The WFP has released some updates on the work they're already doing in East Africa:
- WFP is supplying a hot meal to 85,000 people daily through 20 feeding centres in Mogadishu. Anyone can receive these meals, with no registration required.
- A total of 100 metric tons of specialized nutrition products is destined for airlift into Somalia - enough to provide 35,000 children with the month-long treatment they need to recover from malnutrition.
- The first airlift to Gedo - the western region that borders Kenya and Ethiopia - arrived today carrying 5 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits, which are particularly suitable when people are on the move. 5 metric tons is sufficient to feed 5,000 people for 5 days.
- WFP will provide school meals to all 589,000 school children in the arid northern districts during the August holidays, in addition to regular meals during term time.
The CBC has put together a multi-dimensional East Africa Relief page with more information about the ongoing famine and lists other ways you can help.
The Atlantic's 'In Focus' has collected some heartbreaking photos from refugee camps in the Horn of Africa. See them here.
Canada Gives Additional $50M To East Africa Famine Relief
July 25, 2011
Update: The UN children's charity says the number of Somalis requiring urgent food aid has increased by nearly one million people since January, an 85% increase from the same time last year. Even more daunting - the number of children that are 'acutely malnourished' has risen to nearly 800,000.
Today, the World Bank promised more than $500 million to help drought victims in East Africa. As well, the UN announced plans to airlift emergency rations this week into parts of Somalia that are cut off by the militant group al-Shabab. And the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said a co-ordination conference would be held Wednesday in Kenya.
The head of Oxfam Barbara Stocking said "...the fact that we are here again, three years after the world said never again to famine, shows that strong action is required as well as strong words." 11 million people in the Horn of Africa are in need of aid.
July 22, 2011
Update: Earlier today, Oxfam Canada called on the federal government to donate an additional $18 million to help the United Nations meet its $1.6 billion relief effort for east Africa. Though Canada has already donated $22 million, Oxfam says Canada generally donates four per cent of the global sum, which in this case, is $40 million.
Well, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, who's in Kenya right now, has announced that Canada will exceed that number and provide an extra $50 million to African famine relief. That brings the total amount of aid donated to $72 million.
Oxfam guarantees the money will get to the 11 million people that are in dire need of food and water in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Here's some of what Oda said after touring a refugee camp in Dadaab:
"Today, I saw a true humanitarian crisis at Dadaab. The stories of how the women and children struggled to reach the camp are incredible," Oda said in a news release.
"Their perseverance and courage must be matched by our willingness to help. Canada remains gravely concerned by this humanitarian crisis. Our commitment today will help bring relief to those affected, particularly for the women and children who are the most vulnerable."
You can visit CBC's East Africa Relief page to learn more about how you can help/donate.
Famine In Somalia Has Already Killed Tens Of Thousands
July 20, 2011
Update: Yesterday, we told you the UN was set to declare a full phase-five famine situation in parts of Somalia. Today, the UN made the official announcement, and revealed a couple of other scary facts. UN officials say East Africa's malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world, and that the famine in Somalia has already killed tens of thousands of people. A famine officially occurs when "two adults or four children per group of 10,000 people are dying of hunger daily and 30 per cent of the population is acutely malnurished."
In the past, aid workers have had a tough time trying to send food into many regions of Somalia, because of the violent militant group al-Shabaab. But given the dire need for help, al-Shabaab has promised aid groups limited access to areas under its control. But the UN refugee agency, which has already distributed aid to 90,000 people in Somalia, says that's not enough.
UN To Declare Famine In Somalia
July 19, 2011
The Horn of Africa is struggling to cope with the worst drought it has seen in 60 years. More than 11 million people are affected by the severe conditions. And tomorrow, the UN is 99% certain it will be forced to declare a "full phase-five famine situation." A phase-five famine is the point at which a humanitarian emergency becomes a humanitarian catastrophe.
In Ethiopia and Kenya, the two year drought has killed most animals, which are the only source of food and income. The same is true in five areas of Somalia, but all five areas are under the control of al-Shabaab, an Islamist group with links to al-Qaida. In the past, al-Shabaab has kidnapped aid workers and extorted money from agencies delivering food. However, they declared an amnesty this week that should allow fresh food supplies to be delivered across its territory.
The National covered the story last night with Brian Stewart, who reported extensively on the famine in Ethiopia in 1984. You can read his analysis here and watch the segments here.