James Orbinski, former director of Doctors Without Borders [MSF], describing a day in the life of an MSF physician in Somolia, circa 1992, in Triage: James Orbinski’s Humaritarian Dilemma.

Somalia’s refugee crisis persists today, and is pushed further into criticality by the drought. There is no food, there is no water, there is no security.

KuangSi2Climate change makes traditional life in the Horn of Africa impossible. The displaced population is enormous, and the increasing pressure brought on by the recent drought threatens the stability of the entire region. Many refugee camps have to a large degree become permanent homes for the people who live there. Some families have been living in the same twig hut for a dozen or more years.

Families are separated from one another, sometimes children are lost, and nobody knows the fate of the loved ones left behind to tend what was left of cattle and other possessions. People walk for miles and days, their children sometimes dying in their arms. They get raped and robbed along the way. There is no safety for them. One woman carried her six children who were all too weak from starvation to walk:

There are harrowing stories of people who have made the journey to Dadaab. Some are raped and robbed along the way, others are chased by hyenas. One woman had six children, all of them too frail to walk. She was determined to get them to the camp, so she carried them two at a time, shuttling back and forth for the others she had left behind.

Another couple walked for twenty days in hopes to get help for their sick child, only to have the baby die when they reached the relief camp.

The dry climate in the Horn of Africa is strongly influenced by the Sahara Desert, which is expanding at an alarming rate. The Sahel, the fragile eco border between the Sahara and the region immediately south is succumbing to the desert by 1.5 million hectares per year.

KuangSi2The idea that this desertification is largely anthropogenic has been in the academic literature for decades, given this 1974 report. Local impacts are largely to blame. Traditional life depends on wood for cooking and warmth cause deforestation, and animals graze on the groundcover. Intensive land use interferes with the natural integrity of the boundary.

Other refugee crises surround the area, as well. Flanking the Horn of Africa are Sudan and South Sudan, countries also ravaged by the encroaching Sahara. There, too, ongoing conflict and famine puts increasing pressure on the crisis, further destablizing the region. The discovery of oil in Sudan created another humanitarian blunder. The people living where the oil was discovered were summarily displaced in favor of drilling infrastructure. As oil production increased, so did the conflict.

Water as a weapon of war.

At the end of the Second Sudanese Civil War, the northern Sudanese and the southern Sudanese came to an agreement about oil revenue, but the people in the west (Darfur) were left out. Uprisings in the west threatened oil production, and the government (in Khartoum, but ethnically connected to people in the north) cracked down heavily, with financial muscle from China, who consumed 70% of the oil they produced.

Because of desertification, there is no longer enough water to support traditional lifestyles in Darfur. The tensions between ethnic groups are epic — groups who peacefully shared land and water sources for centuries now compete for them. The government in Khartoum leveraged these tensions to quash dissent in the west. The result was the grisly Darfur conflict.

In January, 2011, The UNHCR counted 1,624,100 internally displaced people, and population of concern totalling 1,958,524. These numbers are similar to those counted for Somalia, which were 1,463,780 internally displaced and a total 2,256,807 population of concern.

These crises put enormous pressure on bordering countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, who also bear the brunt of the drying climate. There is unspeakable suffering in this part of the world.


EcoJustice Team Africa Top 3 Choices for Donations to Horn of Africa Crisis

Save the Children**
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
UNICEF: Donate to Save Children in Horn of Africa Crisis
FreeRice– donates 10 grains of rice to the WFP for each answer you answer correctly.
The HungerSite – Click to give free food.

WFT: 10 Ways You Can Help

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Please join us August 6 and 7 for a weekend blogathon benefit.

Join environmental organizations,websites, bloggers and social-media mavens for a two-day virtual fundraiser to raise money and awareness about the crisis in the Horn of Africa, where 11 million people are severely impacted by the worst drought in over sixty years. The UN recently declared it expects famine, currently identified in two regions in southern Somalia, to spread throughout that region. Experts are predicting that the situation throughout East Africa will worsen as no significant rainfall is expected until 2012.

tcktcktck, Oxfam UK, WiserEarth, deSmog Blog, DailyKos, MobileMedic, RedGreenAndBlue.org, and Climate Change: The Next Generation  have already signed up to partipate in a weekend of action as a first step to escalate direct contributions to tackle the crisis in East Africa.

Proceeds from the August 6-7 blogathon will directly support the work of Médecins Sans Frontières to assist their work in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp clinics, now home to thousands of Somali. MSF has been working in Somalia for 20 years. Yesterday, MSF announced an immediate need for medication to handle the outbreak of measles in the camp, which is now the size of a small city.

Ways to Participate
• Host a blogathon
• Write an article about the situation and include the graphic (available next week).
• Post the graphic on yoursite/Twitter, Google + or Facebook account to publicize your support.
• Participate in publicizing the event through social networking.
• Volunteer to distribute press release to media contacts

Contact us soon to express your interest in participating and we will send a copy of the graphic and a text box early next week.

Over 11 million people needing immediate help now.

Crossposted from EcoJustice on DailyKos

Reader comments are welcome