Drought and conflict are combining to potentially create another summer of famine threatening the lives of millions.
The United States warned last week that East Africa, which suffered from famine and drought last year, may be in for another crisis. Low rainfall amounts are harming food production by farmers in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The U.S. Famine Early Warning System says, "Poor rains would likely negatively affect food security in a region still recovering from a devastating drought and famine in 2011."
A child in Somalia eats specialised fortified food to treat malnutrition (WFP/Susannah Nicol)
The U.S. just pledged $50 million in aid for drought-hit areas. It is clear though that more donations from the entire international community will be needed. The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the largest food aid agency, is currently experiencing huge funding shortages in East Africa. WFP said in a report last week that its 12 month shortfall for the region is $408 million.
WFP revealed this week that "assessment findings in Buhoodle, Somalia, indicate very high levels of food insecurity." Somalia has been hardest hit by the hunger crisis since last year. But so too are its neighbors which have taken in many Somali refugees, as well as contending with hunger among its own population.
In Kenya, WFP warns of rising food prices and that over two million people will need aid. A WFP report said, "Vulnerability is still high in parts of Kenya after two to three successive failed seasons. For farmers in marginal agricultural areas, it is the fourth consecutive poor harvest."
Refugee camps in Ethiopia, where many Somalis fled after famine struck last year, also revealed that about 24 percent of the population have borderline or poor food consumption.
A drought emergency has been taking place for months in the Sahel region of Africa. This region includes the countries of Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, and Burkina Faso.
The greatest danger lies ahead between the traditional harvests. The U.S. states, "In areas of the Sahel most affected by poor crop production, high cereal prices, or conflict, some very poor and poor households will require targeted emergency assistance during the peak lean season (July-Sept.) to meet minimum food needs and prevent increases in already high background levels of acute malnutrition."
Food Crisis in the Sahel Region of Africa. This map shows food security projections for July-September 2012. Without enough intervention the hunger crisis could quickly descend into the emergency and famine stages. (USAID FEWSNET)
If strong action is not taken now, famine looms. The World Food Programme is pleading for help to avoid such a disaster in the Sahel. The agency said in a report that "additional resources are urgently required, given long lead times and the upcoming rainy season hampering access. Significant shortfalls in cereals of approximately 124,900 mt could seriously constrain WFP’s crisis response in all affected countries."