Khadra Suleiman, at Ali Hussein IDP camp, Somaliland. Ali Hussein camp is one of several large camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) on the edge of Burao town. Some people have come from Mogadishu and South Central Somalia to escape the conflict, others have come because of drought.. Mother-of-five Khadra Suleiman is struggling to cope with the rising cost of living in the camp – particularly the cost of food: .(continue reading Oxfam report 7/13/2011)

The 30-mile-long Dadaab Refugee Camp is ground zero in the relief effort for victims of the Horn of Africa famine, now widely recognized as the “worst humanitarian disaster in the World.” With a current population of over 400,000, the three Dadaab camps – Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley – are currently the third largest population center in Kenya, after Nairobi and Mombasa.

The lives of 11 million people are threatened by this crisis, whose epicenter lies in the nomadic shared borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Somalia, already devastated by ongoing violence and displacements from two decades of civil war, is the worst impacted country, with close to 2000 Somalis arriving daily in Southeast Ethiopia and 1400 seeking assistance in Kenya, according to The Tehran Times.

“Looking around, we mainly see women and children,” reported UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy, who has just visited Dadaab. “They are again the ones that are hardest hit by this triple shock of drought – which is related to climate change – [plus] soaring food prices and the armed conflict in Somalia.”

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says existing camps have reached capacity and that the makeshift settlements of thousands of huts made from tree branches, covered by UN-supplied plastic sheets, are “catastrophes waiting to happen.”

“The children are presenting with skin complications where their skin is peeling off mainly due to deficiency in micro-nutrients,” Dr Milhia Abdul Kader told Al Jazeera. “They are coming in a very bad shape.”

Also reporting from the Dadaab, Mr. As Sy, in a Relief Net interview, said : “The most impressive thing, for me, is that the poorest mothers in the worst cases of deprivation still love their children and want the best for them,” said “They want them to be well fed, well-educated and to grow up with a future. To listen to all their stories, with smiles on their faces and hope for the future, is a true source of inspiration for all of us.”

Climate Change & East Africa Drought

As they await the 2014 IPCC 4th report, climate scientists are not yet willing to officially attribute the two year drought to climate change, pointing to existing climate models which predict more precipitation for East African countries. Standing by the scientific formula which states that a single event can not be attributed to climate change, most attribute this historic drought to an extremely strong La Niña event.

In an email to IRIN News , Nigeria’s International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) operating project leader Jan de Leeuw says the current La Niña event, which began in 2010, is one of the strongest since the 1970s. Like El Niño, he says, La Niña occurs in cycles “we don’t understand … We are in a period now of more frequent La Niña events, but such a situation was there from 1950 till 1976 also.”

NASA discusses the role of La Niña in the East Afric drought in Earth Observatory:

The pool of warm water in the east intensifies rains in Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Domino-style, this pattern also increases the intensity of westerly winds over the Indian Ocean, pulling moisture away from East Africa toward Indonesia and Australia. The result? Drought over most of East Africa and floods and lush vegetation in Australia and other parts of Southeast Asia.


Famine Defined

In an interactive report, Explainer: The east Africa food crisis, The Guardian details the characteristics of a famine, outlines the situation in the Horn of Africa, and predicates the need for early warning systems to alert locals as well as regional and international aide organizations on deteriorating conditions.

There has not been an official famine since 1984-85, when around 1 million people in Ethiopia and Sudan died. A famine is measured by rates of hunger, malnutrition and deaths, but the key to it is that it must be widespread, says Oxfam. Manoj Juneja, the new deputy director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, describes famine as a situation where there is an absolute exhaustion of, or inacessibility of, food in a given area leading to death. The situation in the Horn of Africa, says Juneja, has not reached that stage, but it is in a state of severe food insecurity that could rapidly deteriorate. “The situation demands immediate and constant attention,” he says. In fact, famine as defined by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNA) based in Somalia has very precise criteria. The FSNA, started by the World Food Programme and funded by USAid, uses an integrated phase classification (IPC) five-point scale, ranging from “generally food secure” (1) to “catastrophe/famine” (5). Large areas of south east Ethiopia, southern Somalia and north east Kenya are already in phase four, the “emergency” phase. Some of the characteristics of phase five include acute malnutrition reaching more than 30%; deaths from hunger are two or more people per 10,000; water consumption is less than four litres a day; and intake of kilocalories is 1,500 a day compared to the recommended 2,100 a day.

East Africa Famine Facts
• More than 10 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance
• Over 2 million children under the age of five who are suffering from malnutrition; 480,000 are severely malnourished
• Food Price Inflation as reflected in changes in Grain Markets
– Baidoa, Somalia Red Sorghum: + 240%
– Jiiga, Ethiopia: Yellow Maize: + 117%
– Mandera, Kenya: White Maize: + 58%

Resources
• BBC: What you Need to Know
• AlertNet Q&A: How Bad is the Horn of Africa Drought
• PhotoEssay: 7/11 PBS Newshour
• Images/Maps Guardian Interactive Horn of Africa Drought Map
Why doesn’t a drought go away when it rains?
Oxfam: Food crisis in Wajir, Kenya

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DONATE

The World Food Programme: Fill the Cup: (THE WFP needs $200 million just to meet this year’s needs in the Horn of Africa.)
Care International
MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES
• UNICEF: Donate to Save Children in Horn of Africa Crisis

Receive treatment for severe acute malnutrition through the provision of Ready- to-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF) such as Plumpy’Nut at community level or at therapeutic feeding centers;
• Gain access to clean water through the repair of pumping
stations, digging of boreholes, chlorination of water
sources, and water trucking;
• Receive vaccines against measles, polio and other
deadly diseases; and
• Resume schooling through the provision of temporary learning spaces and School-in-a-Box kits.

Social Media

Twitter: #foodcrisis #HornofAfrica #drought

Facebook: Horn of Africa

MapSourcing

Regional Drought Response Plan: East Africa Droughts.