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Remembering the Horn of Africa this Holiday Season

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President Obama issued a statement last week thanking Americans who had donated to relief efforts in the Horn of Africa this year. He also cautioned that much more needs to be done to overcome the humanitarian tragedy of 2011.

Obama said, “As we enter the season of giving and renewal, more than 13.3 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance amid the worst drought the region has seen in 60 years. The heartbreaking accounts of lives lost and of those struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and the need to reach out to people in need.”

                             

The UN World Food Programme and CARE team up to provide food to refugees who have fled Somalia (WFP/Mariko Hall). Both of these agencies are accepting donations for East Africa.  

The U.S. has a great tradition of leading the fight against famine wherever it occurs. In 1946, just a year after World War II ended, the threat of massive famine loomed over the globe as food supplies were running low. In this case, the paths of the U.S., Somalia, and Ethiopia crossed briefly.

Herbert Hoover, who was appointed food ambassador during this crisis, first reviewed the food supply of as many nations as possible. In this report were listed Somaliland and Ethiopia. Hoover writes “of self-sufficient nations in Africa, we classified Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, and Somaliland, with a total population perhaps of 35,000,000 people.”

There were no reports of drought that year in East Africa. Of course, any country not in food deficit at that time was a huge relief with the impending worldwide famine. It was going to be enough of a challenge to meet the food needs of the war-devastated countries.

Whether or not there is a drought is all about luck. In 1946 there was luckily none in East Africa. This year a different story–a huge drought.

What does not depend on luck though is how well nations are prepared to deal with drought. Many actions can be taken by the international community to help build up the resilience of farmers in developing countries so that when drought does hit, it is not catastrophic. Food reserves can also be in place to prevent a year of setbacks from drought and keep a country moving toward food security.

So, this is one of the lessons of this year. Invest in farmers today to avoid the famine of tomorrow.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
  • http://www.medicalteams.org Warren Bachand

    Thanks, William, for helping maintain awareness of the east Africa drought. We continue to send medical teams there to care for refugees as security allows. More about our work and an opportunity to give a year-end gift is at Medical Teams. Thank you!