Famine is almost always manmade. It is a disaster that requires a series of unfortunate events, but the root cause is usually a failure in the politics of resource distribution. Water, food, infrastructure: where there exists will, it is possible to avert famine. The Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought, but a perfect storm of drought, long term neglect, and a host of political failures becomes an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Somalia today.

KuangSi2The global food crisis is devastating the people in Somalia. For decades, there has been no effort to build infrastructure in rural areas, so there are few wells. There are few roads. There is no security. There are no resources to support bringing food to a marketplace. There is nothing to help people affect how the drought impacts their ability to produce food locally. Many depend solely on their livestock, but their cattle are dying. The recent crops produced yields at around 20%, and the price of sorghum has increased to 240% since last year. The cost of maize has nearly tripled.  

People walk for twenty or more days to reach the camps. There is no safety for them, so they get robbed, raped, and brutalized along the way. Some are too weak to walk, so others must carry them. They are driven by the tiny hope that there will be something for them across the border. Or maybe they walk because they have no choice. But they arrive at a camp overwrought with far more people than it can accomodate.

The refugee count in Dadaab is nearing a half million. This famine creates humanitarian need for an estimated 15 million people. The camps were declared “full” months ago, and now relief organizations scramble to build emergency extension camps.

Oxfam brings desperately needed emergency infrastructure to Dadaab. They work to keep pace with the influx of refugees, bringing water and sanitation to the expanding camps so feeding centers can accomodate the crushing number of people arriving in Kenya each day. They dig wells, provide clean water transport infrastructure, and keep pace with the poop. They cannot call a Honey Pot service, after all…

Somalis contunue to gather near Dadaab to find water, food, and refuge. The crisis worsens, and the need is hard to comprehend. What amounts to little for us is an enormous help in Kenya. Even a dollar or two is a blessing. The people arriving at Dadaab have nothing.

Click here to Go directly to Oxfam’s donation page.

Crisis at the other door: Armed conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

The refugee count in the Horn of Africa and surrounding area is daunting. In January, 2011, The UNHCR counted 1,463,780 internally displaced and a Somalian population of concern that totaled 2,256,807, but the number of displaced Somali people grows alarmingly. Ethiopia had 155,329 people of concern inside its borders. The Horn of Africa is flanked by Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan — two countries in armed conflict with one another. This creates new refugees every day. The UNHCR counted 1,624,100 internally displaced people, for a population of concern totalling 1,958,524. Last month, on the day when South Sudan became a new country, they celebrated their birth with an estimated 260,000 people newly displaced by the violence.

KuangSi2The reason for the renewed conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is clear from the map at right. The former Sudan was one of the most prolific oil producing countries in Africa — but the oil concessions were in the south, and the only port was in the north. The newly formed South Sudan claims most of the oil, but the new borders leave her landlocked. The oil must move by its only pipeline through the north to Port Sudan, which is controlled by the government where they just seceeded. South Sudan’s choices include building pipeline or railway infrastructure through Kenya or Uganda, but this will not happen soon. Such a venture is expensive and carries with it plenty of conflict risks.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s government in Khartoum plays its hand to full advantage. Because they control the pipeline, they can cripple the fledgling South Sudan by charging a per barrel fee on all exported oil.
Drought, fighting, and political calculations work together to perpetuate regional crisis in South Sudan. This threatens to put increased pressure on the surrounding countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia. It is also a problem unlikely to solve itself. Read Oxfam’s blog about South Sudan here.

East Africa Food Crisis: 48 Hours of Action

Crossposted from 48 Hours of Action

This weekend, Daily Kos is participating in 48-Hour Fundraiser hosted by environmental websites and nonprofit organizations to benefit the 12 million people struggling for survival in the East African countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.  Last week, the United Nations announced famine — already declared in two districts — is likely to spread throughout southern Somalia. This week, the UN issued a warning that food insecurity in northern Uganda is sufficiently alarming to raise the possibility that the country might become the fifth nation impacted by the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in sixty years.

Also participating in this weekend of action are 350.org, Oxfam International, WiserEarth, tcktcktck, DeSmogBlog, MIT Climate CoLab, BPI Campus, Climate Change: The Next Generation, RedGreenAndBlue.org, Cool HIVE, MedicMobile, and The Enough Project.

Over the course of the weekend, experts in the field of humanitarian assistance will join environmental writers to outline the history of the region and detail how geopolitics, colonialism, ongoing civil wars, climate change and geographic vulnerabilities have combined to create the perfect storm now ravaging East Africa.

Follow the 48 hours for East Africa on Twitter: #48forEastAfrica and the OxFam 48 hours Project from their web site.

Click the button to donate

Add your $.02 to the donation so it becomes $5.02, $10.02, $100.02, $1,000,000.02 etc. Oxfam will then know which donations are from BPI Campus where we always include our own two cents.

At BPI Campus – our Progressive agenda:
1. People matter more than profits.
• Corollary: Each person matters … equally.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.