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Horn Of Africa – New Crisis

  • July 27th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

horn-africa-famine.jpgThe mobilisation of international aid for the Horn of Africa this week has spotlighted a drawn-out, historical human crisis, brought on above all by drought.

Because of ongoing armed conflict, large areas under the control of Islamist militia groups especially in Somalia, with as many as two-million people, are still closed to outside aid agencies.


The World Food Program announced at a conference at Ministerial level of its 191 member countries, in Rome, 25.7.11, it would start an immediate airlift of supplies to Somalia.

Late on Tuesday it was still waiting to move aircraft from Kenya into Somalia, delayed by resistance from opposition forces – though some other aid organisations were said to be getting better access.

It said that donor countries had rallied to meet the crisis of a deterioration in the situation this year, harking back to the era of famine in that region in the 1980s.


The European Commission said that in 2011 so far it had given nearly €70-million (A$92.5-million;, 26.7.11) in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa, of which more than 70% was committed to respond to the drought crisis.

It said the priority sectors were food assistance, nutrition and water and sanitation, and given the severity of the current drought, more funding was being arranged.

Statement from the EC:

“The last two years have been the driest in the Eastern Horn of Africa since 1950.

“Two consecutive rainy seasons have failed in Somalia, Northern and Eastern Kenya, Southern and Eastern Ethiopia and Djibouti.

“As a result harvests are very low, livestock mortality has soared, and food and water have become extremely expensive.

“This dramatically increases food insecurity and decreases the population’s coping capacity.

“Millions of people in the region cannot meet basic survival needs, and emergency levels of acute malnutrition are widespread. In most areas affected by the drought, malnutrition rates are over 30%, more than double the internationally recognised emergency threshold.


“The combination of conflict and drought has exacerbated the situation in Somalia.

“According to the United Nations, more than 135,000 people have fled the country since the beginning of the year. Thousands of Somalis are arriving at refugee camps every week in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia in precarious health. According to the UN … half of the children under five arriving in the camps are acutely undernourished.

“The crisis is expected to worsen over the coming three to four months. Recovery is not expected until next year, given the foreseen late and below-average harvests, the depletion of pasture and water and the high prices of food, water, and fuel…”


The Australian government this week committed an additional $20-million in emergency humanitarian support, bringing to $80-million its overall assistance to the region.

It said 11.6 million people, (half Australia’s population), were affected by “looming catastrophe”  in the Horn of Africa, described by the United Nations as the most severe food security challenge in Africa for 20 years.

The Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, had travelled with a WFP group to the Gedo region in southern Somalia, one of the worst affected areas.

More than half a million Somalis were in the refugee camps, with nearly half of the children under five starving.

Many have crowded into the war-torn capital Mogadishu.

The Australian government  communiqué said operations in Somalia were very high risk; since 2008, 14 WFP relief workers had been killed there.

The UN estimates put total humanitarian requirements for the crisis  at around US$1.8-billion (A$1.64-billion), of which only half was currently funded.


The drought and civil war have combined with hold-ups agreeing on the mechanism for getting the aid in quickly, to hold up the emergency operation, according to the Paris newspaper Le Monde.

“Twelve million victims of the worst drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa have to wait on a conference of donor countries on Wednesday (27.7.11)  in Nairobi – to know how much aid will be allocated to them”, it says.

It says the Rome meeting organised by the WFP, on the initiative of the G20 economic powers, has produced commitments showing “best intentions”, but it quotes the French Agriculture Minister, Bruno Le Maire, and others, that the operation must be “urgent and massive.”

It had established that the Red Cross (ICRC) got 400 tonnes of food aid into two Southern provinces of Somalia controlled by insurgents, last week, but says so far access in general for the large humanitarian organisations remained blocked.


European Commission, Brussels, “The humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa and the European Commission’s humanitarian response”, 23.7.11.  MEMO/11/536.

Julia Gillard, Prime Minister and Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Canberra, Joint media release: “Australia works with World Food Programme to save lives in the Horn of Africa”, 25.7.11.

Le Monde, Paris, Famine en Afrique : l’aide internationale se fait attendre, (African famine: the international aid effort has to wait), 26.7.11.[NL_Titresdujour]-20110726-[zonea]&ens_id=1541883, (27.7.11).

RFE Radio Liberty, Washington, “UN Aid Agency To Airlift Food To Somalia”, 26.7.11., (26.7.11).

World Food Program (WFP), Rome, “Rome Emergency Meeting Rallies To Aid Horn Of Africa (FAO)”, 25.7.11., (26.7.11).

Picture  WFP