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Millions still facing starvation in Horn of Africa, some blame U.N.

Women and children refugees of the famine waiting to enter Dadaab camp in Kenya.
Women and children refugees of the famine waiting to enter Dadaab camp in Kenya.
By Oxfam East Africa, Wikimedia Creative Commons photo

Today, relief agencies are saying there are some 12 million people in the Horn of Africa in danger of starving as a result of drought, exacerbated by conflict in Somalia.

As the famine crisis continues to worsen, it’s hard to know where to begin with its story. The U.S. today announced $17 million in new U.S. aid for the region, over 1,000 Somali refugees per day continue to arrive at Kenya camps, piracy is hampering delivery of relief supplies to Somalia and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talked with rock star Bono about the need for increased aid efforts.

Another interesting, and revealing, story angle comes from the Inter Press Service News Agency, pointing much of the blame for the famine at the United Nations for not putting more effort into long-term development programs across the region.

Gustavo Capdevila, writing for IPS, described a bleak situation:

(See ways to donate at end of this story.)

“The United Nations Human Rights Council should accept responsibility, on behalf of the world forum, for the famine spreading through eastern Africa, and should call for member countries’ cooperation to overcome the desperate food crisis there, experts said.

“One of the 18 independent experts on the advisory committee to the Council, Chilean academic José Antonio Bengoa, set forth the idea of asking for an urgent special session, in an attempt to draw the attention of the international community to the gravity of the crisis in the Horn of Africa…

“Left in the lurch by defaulting donors, the WFP (World Food Program) is in ‘a scandalous situation, and it barely has enough food for the next few days,’ he said…

“Another aspect of the crisis highlighted by Bengoa is the link with broader development issues, like the consequences of the absence of development programmes in east Africa and the lack of international aid and cooperation.”

Capdevila concludes his report with statements from Jean Ziegler of Switzerland, another expert on the advisory committee, and a former U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food:

“Ziegler put forward his interpretation of some recent episodes on the international financial market related to the present crisis in the Horn of Africa.

“Greece was recently granted a 157 billion dollar financial bailout, he noted – money that was sent to Greece so it could pay Western banks what they were owed. Meanwhile, at a conference in Nairobi, the WFP asked for 4.2 billion dollars for the period Jul. 15 to Aug. 15, and only secured one-third of this amount.

“Germany, Italy, Spain and other European countries can forward billions of euros to their banks, Ziegler continued, yet the same countries have slashed their WFP contributions since October 2008.

“To restore the right to food, stock market speculation on staple foods must be banned, states must be obliged to honour their statutory obligations under the convention establishing the WFP, and the debt of countries most affected by the present famine must be drastically reduced, Ziegler said.”

Meanwhile, it’s obvious to all that more money is needed for immediate aid to prevent widespread starvation.

Here’s a list from The Washington Post of organizations taking donations:

CARE: 800-422-7385

Catholic Relief Services: 800-736-3467

Doctors Without Borders: 888-392-0392

Mercy Corps: 888-256-1900

Oxfam America: 800-77-OXFAM (800-776-9326). Outside the U.S.: 617-482-1211

800-FOR-KIDS (800-367-5437)

Save the Children: 800-728-3843

U.N. World Food Program: 866-929-1694

UNICEF United States Fund: 800-FOR-KIDS (800-367-5437)

World Concern 866-530-5433 or by texting the word “crisis” to 20222

World Vision 888-511-6443




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