Africa: Taking Action

The National's coverage of the famine in East Africa that has killed tens of thousands of people.

On Wednesday, July 20, the United Nations declared an official famine in parts of southern Somalia, and confirmed that tens of thousands of Somalis have already died in the worst hunger emergency in a generation.  The head of the UN refugee agency has called the situation in drought-ridden Somalia the "worst human disaster" in the world after meeting with refugees who have endured unspeakable hardship to reach what is now the world's largest refugee camp. The Kenyan camp, Dadaab, currently holds 380,000 refugees, and is overflowing with tens of thousands of new arrivals forced from their homes by the severe drought that has hit the region.  People in Ethiopia, Djibouti, and south Sudan are also affected by the crisis.

Somalia, wracked by 20 years of conflict, is the area worst affected. Some 3,000 people flee each day for neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, which are struggling to cope.  Islamist rebels controlling most of Somalia's south rescinded their ban on outside aid agencies in June, but security remains a concern for aid workers struggling to deliver  food, clean water, shelter and health services.

The UN needs $477 million to deal with this crisis until the end of this year, said Mark Bowden, the UN's top official in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia.  Twelve million people already need humanitarian aid, and more than 2 million children are malnourished and in need of lifesaving action.  Oxfam has stated that drought, coupled with poor governance, has killed up to 90% of livestock in some regions.  This is the Horn of Africa's worst drought in 60 years.

Canada has pledged to give at least $50 million in addition to the $22 million it has already donated to aid agencies working in East Africa, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda announced on Friday, July 21.  Oda also announced matching funds for donations made by Canadians to eligible charities working in the region, which expires on Friday, September 15.

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