News on the 12 million people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa drought today is focusing on the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Mogadishu, Somalia, the first visit to the war-torn capital in nearly two decades.
According to a report in Al Jazeera, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit “follows Wednesday’s meeting in Istanbul by members of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), who pledged to donate $350 million to assist the drought- and famine-stricken Somalis.”
Meanwhile, humanitarian agencies continue to rush aid to the region.
Here is an update from Derek Sciba, in Kenya near the Somalia border. Derek is marketing director of World Concern, a Seattle-based, non-profit humanitarian organization providing community development and disaster response:
“Every day, more Somali families decide to leave their homes, trading insecurity and famine for some hope of getting safety and consistent food at extremely overcrowded refugee camps. As they travel, the thousands of refugees overwhelm small communities both in Somalia and in Kenya. It endangers their lives and the lives of the communities where they land.
“I visited one community – Damajale, Kenya – last week that has been hit especially hard. It’s a community of about 4,000 people, and one well serves as the only source of clean water. In the last couple of months, more than 2,000 Somali refugees have arrived there looking for relief. The community tried to help, but the demand on the pump was simply too much. The pump broke, leaving the community with no source of clean water for 30 kilometers. I followed our water expert as he listened to the community and diagnosed the problem. Today the pump has been repaired, providing the community and the refugees with water once again.
“World Concern is helping with the basics of life: food, water and emergency supplies. We are working with partners and helping people who are sick get the treatment or medication they need. World Concern is working in both Northern Somalia, and in Southern Somalia, which has been hit especially hard by the crisis. Our response also is meeting urgent needs in Kenya, in communities along the border with Somalia, equipping them to handle the influx of refugees.”
Derek Sciba/World Concern photo
Yesterday, the head of the U.N. food agency said the world should be ashamed of what is happening to the region.
“It is unacceptable for more than 12 million people to be at risk of starvation today,” Jacques Diouf, head of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said at the start of a conference on the drought crisis in Rome.
“The required funding is lacking. If governments and their donor partners do not invest now, the appalling famine we are now struggling to redress will return to shame the international community yet again,” he said.
Diouf called for immediate food aid to help the worst-affected in the region but also for longer-term assistance to livestock farmers and to crop producers to help strengthen their defenses against the impact of climate change.
“Although aid is slowly flowing to affected areas and short-term needs are gradually being met, we must start now to help people build a future,” he said.
Again Derek Sciba:
“Whenever possible, World Concern tries to address the needs of food and water by equipping local communities, rather than always trucking in containers of water or food. For example, we fix broken wells and increase the capacity of underperforming wells. This will help for months or years, instead of days. For food, while some emergency feeding is required, we have successfully used vouchers among refugees in the past to buy food from local merchants. This provides stimulation to the local economy and greatly reduces security concerns. In all we do, we work with communities to learn about their problems, and together, we work to solve them in the most effective ways possible.
“Ideally, we seek to keep Somalis in Somalia, or at least help them integrate into communities where they have migrated. We are caring for the host communities and the refugees…
“In tandem with our emergency response, we are paving the way for long-term development that equips communities to better handle adversity on their own, and even thrive. We must work with communities to educate children and equip adults to grow food, make money and save.
“We see a high probability that this famine will spread and the number of refugees will greatly increase. While we may not be able to stop this famine, we can save lives. It is the moral and right thing to do…”
Learn more: www.worldconcern.org/crisis