Category Archives: Somalia

Famine in Somalia. Is the Wolf at the Door in Afghanistan?

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the mini-summit on the Horn of Africa in New York on September 24. (Copyright: WFP/Dena Gudaitis)

Aid agencies are racing to save people from starvation in Somalia. UNICEF says that a child dies every 6 minutes in the famine-ravaged country. Severe drought in East Africa, coupled with the conflict in Somalia, has produced one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in decades.

Is Afghanistan next to be attacked by famine? Drought has struck the north and western part of Afghanistan. An Oxfam press release states, “Nearly three quarters of the people living in the affected areas say that they will run out of food in less than two months.”

Asuntha Charles, head of Oxfam in Afghanistan, says “Governments need to wake up to the gravity of this crisis and ensure they are ready to respond before the situation gets worse. Delays will just make things harder for families already struggling to cope. The drought has completely destroyed the wheat crop in some areas. People are reducing the amount of food they are eating and selling what little they have. We still have time to stop this becoming a disaster, but only if we act now.”

The United Nations World Food Programme has been facing low funding for its Afghan relief operation this year, so there was already a hunger crisis firmly in place before this drought took hold.

WFP, at last report, was about $200 million short on funding for its 2011 operation. Earlier this year WFP had to cut school meals for about 500,000 Afghan children because of the low funding. For children in developing countries school meals are often the only meal they receive the entire day. Afghanistan is a country that needs a nationwide school meals program, not a reduction in child feeding. WFP programs to help small farmers are also impacted by low funding.

It is expected that almost 3 million people will need food aid this fall in Afghanistan, on top of a population of 7 million already suffering from hunger. In a country seeking to build peace, will it now be confronted with famine? Afghanistan needs an emergency response now as well as plans to prevent future tragedies.

This past week in New York Josette Sheeran, the UN World Food Programme’s director, urged actions to prevent famine from striking again. Where there are investments in food security, as well as open access, a powerful line of defense can be built against famine. The drought In East Africa is proof of this.

Sheeran says, “The fact is while droughts may not be preventable, famines are. In areas where the humanitarian community has access, millions of hungry are being reached with life-saving action and lasting hunger solutions.”

These actions range “from supporting small holder farmers to deploying anti-hunger safety net programmes like school feeding.” Sheeran adds, “In my own agency, through a community adaptation program called MERET, the Ethiopian government, with support by WFP has been has build a sustainable land management and rain catchment program that has vastly increased food production and mitigated the impact of the drought.”

These programs require enough funding from the international community. However, WFP has faced funding shortages for its operations all year, including in Somalia.

The international community needs to act fast in Somalia and Afghanistan. In addition to meeting emergency needs, long-term solutions have to be put in place. We cannot afford another humanitarian disaster.

Article first published as Famine in Somalia. Is the Wolf at the Door in Afghanistan? on Blogcritics.

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Filed under advocacy, Afghanistan, Africa, Congress, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Ethiopia, famine, global hunger, Josette Sheeran, malnutrition, Middle East, Oxfam, plumpy'nut, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, World Food Programme

Interview: Kate O’Malley of Irish Americans in Support of Somalia

The Irish National Famine Memorial Coffin Ship in County Mayo. Erected "To honor the memory of all who died, suffered and emigrated due to the Great Famine of 1845-1850, and the victims of all famines." (photo courtesy Irish Americans in Support of Somalia)

The drought in East Africa is so massive it threatens over 13 million people with starvation. That is almost as many people as the population of Maryland and Virginia combined.

The hardest hit area is conflict-torn Somalia where UNICEF says that a child dies every 6 minutes. Aid agencies are rushing to save lives. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes in the desperate search for food and water.

But will you see this story in the news? Not often, as reported by the Pew research center. Kate O’Malley of Rhode Island noticed this lack of media attention and took action to do something about it. She started a group called Irish Americans in Support of Somalia. She recently took time to talk about this group and how it connects the past with the present crisis in East Africa.

What gave you the idea to form Irish Americans in Support of Somalia?

I felt frustrated about the lack of media coverage about what was happening in Somalia. My husband is from Ireland and I am Irish American and we have two daughters who have grown up sharing time between both places. We were raised with stories of the bitter devastation of the Great Irish Famine of 150 years ago, when millions perished from starvation or were lost to the coffin ships as they fled in desperation. We felt honoring our history by helping famine victims today was a compelling connection that would resonate with others, so we started this campaign to spread awareness and raise funds to aid in the biggest humanitarian disaster of this century. What’s happening in the Horn of Africa in 2011 is a complex mess and far away, but we hope people, Irish or not, will consider this: In 1831 tens of thousands Native Americans were forcibly relocated with more than half dying on the march now known as the Trail of Tears. Just sixteen years later, despite their suffering and because they understood what starvation meant, members of the Choctaw Nation sent $710 to the starving in Ireland, a huge amount at the time. To this day the Irish are grateful. This history should inspire people to realize that if they could do that then, surely we can each do something today for the starving in Somalia and East Africa.

Do you have fundraising events planned?

Since the start of this campaign a few weeks ago, our focus has been to grow this all-volunteer grassroots campaign through online efforts to spread the word. Just like on St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone can be “Irish”, we’re inviting everyone to “like” our Facebook page or to email us at irishamericansforsomalia@gmail.com .

We’re providing information on how to donate, highlighting compelling historical connections and offering updates about what is happening in East Africa. We’re hoping people will share this information with their own networks, family and friends. This week we met with the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial Committee who spearheaded the building of a beautiful memorial to the victims of the Great Irish Famine. As a living memorial, fighting hunger today has always been a part of their mission. They plan to present a donation at an October 9th ceremony at the Memorial in Providence and to encourage their many member Irish American organizations to get behind this effort. Folks should stay tuned for information on upcoming events.

Where will the funds raised by Irish Americans in Support of Somalia be distributed?

We are supporting Edesia, a non-profit, operating its Providence, RI factory around the clock to produce enough Plumpy’nut, to feed 50,000 children a day in the Horn of Africa. Plumpy’nut is designed to treat severe malnutrition in young children who can make a full recovery in just 4 – 8 weeks. Just $50 provides a full life saving treatment. Edesia supplies its products at cost to such organizations as USAID, UNICEF, World Food Programme and Save the Children. Donations help them lower the cost even further so their partners can buy and distribute larger quantities. I visited the plant to see production, learn how it’s being distributed and to meet the people behind Edesia. They’re creating local jobs, they’re saving lives globally, and they need our help now. We’re asking people to donate to them directly at the Edesia donation page and to please write Irish Americans in Support of Somalia in the purpose line of the donation page or on the memo line of their check. This way we can track total donations and determine how effective we’re being.

How can someone get involved with Irish Americans in Support of Somalia?

Helping to spread the word, through Facebook, email, or conversations with family and friends is key to launching this effort and getting people to start paying attention to what’s happening in the Horn of Africa. Our effort is not limited to just Irish Americans, and we are hoping to work with as many individuals and organizations as possible to get the message out. We hope such groups will consider hosting events for this cause, making appeals to their members, or distributing information at their regularly scheduled activities. We have print and electronic materials we can offer. We also ask that people help us with networking and with media contacts, particularly in the Irish American press. If they can make a donation in the name of Irish Americans in Support of Somalia at Edesia Donation Page , all the better.

Article first published as Interview: Kate O’Malley of Irish Americans in Support of Somalia on Blogcritics.

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Filed under advocacy, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Edesia, famine, global hunger, History, Ireland, Kenya, malnutrition, plumpy'nut, social media, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme

Food for Peace, CRS Working to Feed the Hungry in East Africa

President Reagan called the U.S. Food for Peace program an “instrument of American compassion.” This government program has a tradition of feeding the world’s hungry. It saves lives. It represents the very best of America.

And we see it in action again with the recent Food for Peace donation of $64 million to the charity Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The food will be used as part of a relief mission to drought-stricken Ethiopia.


Ronald Reagan said “people who are hungry are weak allies for freedom.”  Today, Food for Peace is threatened with severe budget cuts by Congress. (photo courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library)

Ethiopia is suffering food shortages from failed crops. For the food that is available, prices are high for many Ethiopian families.

Catholic Relief Services is feeding about a million people there as part of the Joint Emergency Operations Plan. The Food for Peace donation goes to this joint mission.

The charities CARE, Save the Children US, Save the Children UK, World Vision, Food for the Hungry Ethiopia, and the Relief Society of Tigray will assist in the distribution of the food.

Around a million people are being given a lifeline, thanks to Food for Peace, CRS and the other charities working together. In addition, CRS and other aid agencies continue their work to build up the resilience of farmers to drought. This effort has helped make Ethiopia less vulnerable to the drought, compared to parts of Somalia where aid agencies have had far less access in recent years.


Women collect water in a region of Ethiopia where CRS has been working on drought mitigation projects since 2003. Photo by KL Dammann/CRS

Food for Peace, which started during the Eisenhower administration, has come under pressure recently from Congress. Members of the House of Representatives have proposed cutting most, if not all, of the funding for Food for Peace. Yet hunger-fighting programs are a very tiny part of the overall budget and cutting them makes no dent in the federal deficit.

CRS is working with its partners throughout East Africa to bring relief from the massive drought that struck the region. This includes aid to Somali refugees in Kenya, as well as support to host communities there which are also suffering from the widespread drought. In Somalia, within the areas of Mogadishu and Baidoa, CRS is helping 28,000 displaced persons with health and nutrition services.

In addition CRS is providing food, water, and livelihood support to 35,000 drought-affected Somalis in the south-central part of the country. Their work involves not only emergency aid, but also projects for building up resistance to future droughts.

David Orth-Moore of CRS says, “While working to alleviate the immediate human suffering, CRS recognizes the importance of long-term drought mitigation programs, and we’ve seen that some communities are faring better now during this current drought because of those projects.”


You can help Catholic Relief Services by donating to their East Africa Emergency Fund

Article first published as Food for Peace, CRS Working to Feed the Hungry in East Africa on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Africa, Catholic Relief Services, drought, Dwight Eisenhower, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, Kenya, malnutrition, Save the Children, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, World Vision

Thoughts On Norway and the Famine in Somalia

How will history remember the summer of 2011? You could make a long list of events. Certainly at the top are the famine in East Africa and the mass shootings that took place in Norway.

These two tragedies intertwined when representatives from Norway attended an East Africa donor conference in July, right after the shootings.

Arvinn E. Gadgil of Norway’s foreign ministry said, “It was an astonishing moment. In a meeting about the potential death of 12 million people, Norway got a standing ovation for a full minute. I asked our UN ambassador who said that he had not seen anything like it during his 30 years in the UN system. People all around the world were clearly shocked by the events in Oslo.”

Norway could have turned inwards in the wake of their own tragedy. They could have put aside areas of international concern. They could have stopped reaching out, for at least the time being. That did not happen.

Instead, Norway went to work to save lives in East Africa. At the end of July, two planes from Norway touched down in Somalia to distribute emergency rations for 50,000 hungry Somalis. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) distributed the food in the Mogadishu area.

On Saturday July 31, two AN-12 planes from Norway landed in Mogadishu loaded with almost 28 tons emergency rations. Credits: Gunhild Forselv/NRC

Marianne Alfsen of NRC wrote, “People are dying as we speak. The quicker we act, the more lives can be saved. More shipments by plane are being planned, while emergency food is also on its way by sea.”

The Norwegian government continued its donations to UN agencies to help them fight hunger. Dena Gudaitis of the UN World Food Programme says, “WFP is incredibly grateful to Norway for providing a generous and flexible contribution to WFP on a yearly basis for our overall relief operations. This year, WFP has allocated US$ 5 million from Norway funding to operations in Kenya and Ethiopia.”

This outpouring of generosity is a way of life for Norway. It can be seen in the actions of the government and charitable agencies. It’s also seen in the acts of individuals.

When Hanna Helmersen penned her memoir War and Innocence, she characterized the generosity of her home country during the Nazi German occupation. Children reached out to the hungry. Helmresen and her classmates gave some of their food, which was in short supply, to Russian prisoners being held by the German army in a camp near their home.

After the war, the Norwegian government showed this same spirit working with Herbert Hoover, America’s food ambassador. Hoover sought to organize relief to defeat the post-war famine. Norway was very cooperative in this effort, doing what it could even though the country had great needs of its own.

The charity American Relief for Norway typified the same spirit too. This agency, which was led by Norwegian Americans, did not forget the suffering in other countries. American relief for Norway helped to buy CARE packages for their hungry neighbors. That same generosity carries on today.

Gadgil said in July, “The question of whether I should travel to Rome when so many people have lost so much in the terrorist actions in Norway was a difficult one. But, as Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has said, we will respond to these atrocities with more humanity. Norway’s fight against poverty, for development and humanitarian compassion are what define us as a nation.”

Article first published as Thoughts On Norway and the Famine in Somalia on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Africa, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, Kenya, malnutrition, Norway, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger

A New Friendship Train to Fight Global Hunger

When hunger ravaged Europe after World War II how did Americans respond? They started a Friendship Train to feed the hungry and help win the peace after the war.

Let’s start a New Friendship Train today to reach the hungry overseas starting first with East Africa which is suffering from famine and a severe drought. Then the train will move to provide relief to drought afflicted Afghanistan. Yemen, Haiti, the Ivory Coast and many other countries also need support.

Start the New Friendship Train. You can donate at these aid agencies……
 

First Destination: East Africa…To Feed the Hungry and Malnourished…..

Train images courtesy of Shortlines of Chicago Historical Society. Crossing lights image courtesy of Amazing Animations.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, malnutrition, plumpy'nut, Save the Children, School feeding, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme, World Vision

Could Yemen be the Next Somalia?

UNICEF Nutrition Officer Dr. Rajia Sharhan holds a young child at a therapeutic feeding centre in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital. (UNICEF Yemen/2011/Halldorsson)

With months of political unrest layered upon an already hungry and impoverished population, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen. The suffering is taking place on many fronts.

Recent fighting in southern Yemen between the government and suspected Al Qaeda militants is causing displacement and malnutrition, particularly among children. There are also hundreds of thousands of displaced persons from a conflict in the North who need humanitarian assistance. Many Yemenis are impacted by high food prices.

Add this together and you have a Somalia-size humanitarian disaster potentially in the offing – that is, if no action is taken. In an IRIN News story Geert Cappelaere of UNICEF says, “Yemen could become the next Somalia as child malnutrition is as big as it is in the Horn of Africa.”

Even before the political unrest began, aid agencies like the World Food Programme and UNICEF were short on funding and unable to reach all those in need. Hunger and malnutrition were severe problems. Food prices were high .

Instability has resulted in a shortage of fuel, electricity and other basic services. Food prices have skyrocketed even higher. Families have skipped meals or cut back on certain food items needed for a healthy diet.

A gradual breakdown of public services is taking place. When this happens, it creates a devastating domino effect that is often silent and potentially deadly. You have the most dreaded scenario unfolding: unvaccinated and malnourished children.

A recent UNICEF report states, “Governorates continue to report an average of 20% non-operational vaccinating facilities, either because health workers are unable to travel to the health facilities or cold chain refrigeration is disrupted due to lack of electricity and gas.”

Dr Rajia Ahmed Sharhan of UNICEF says, “Families are finding it difficult to go to health facilities due to the high cost of transport especially when they are from villages and are far from health centers.” The result is fewer visits by families to get what they most desperately need.

When health interventions can be applied, they are enormously successful. Take for instance the miracle food plumpy’nut, which needs to be in full supply in Yemen to treat child malnutrition.

Dr. Sharhan says, “Children who have received plumpy’nut were cured from malnutrition within 45 days maximum…some get cured very fast within 30 days. You can see the results immediately.” Plumpy’nut rescues children from lifelong physical and mental damage that can occur early in life from lack of nourishment. Imagine what long-term change could occur in Yemen if a whole generation of children could be saved from the damaging malnutrition.

UNICEF should be provided with a full supply of plumpy’nut to treat all the cases of malnutrition. It would be an inexpensive investment for the international community to make. Ultimately, it is the most important.

A coalition of nations could intervene now and ease the humanitarian crisis taking place in Yemen. This means full support of UNICEF , the World Food Programme and other aid agencies operating there.

Now is the time for this intervention, rather than waiting till you have an epic-scale humanitarian disaster. Enough warnings have been sounded.

Article first published as Could Yemen be the Next Somalia? on Blogcritics.

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Filed under malnutrition, plumpy'nut, Somalia, UNICEF, Yemen

The Roadmap to End Global Hunger

During 2009 the global hunger crisis escalated with the number of people suffering from hunger climbing over one billion. This great humanitarian crisis calls for action on the part of world leaders. In countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Sudan hunger threatens hopes for peace. This book includes press releases, interviews and perspective on The Roadmap to End Global Hunger legislation in Congress. This bill (H.R. 2817) was introduced during 2009 by U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.). The legislation is based on the recommendations made by groups such as Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Friends of the World Food Program, World Vision and others. Inside you will hear from offiicials from these organizations as they discuss the Roadmap and its importance in fighting hunger. Also you will see how you can get involved to support the Roadmap to End Global Hunger. Also included in the book is a special historical perspective section on Fighting Hunger and World War II.

The Roadmap to End Global Hunger is available from:

Amazon.com

Google Ebookstore

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Filed under Afghanistan, Catholic Relief Services, drought, East Africa, global hunger, History, Ivory Coast, Kenya, malnutrition, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, School feeding, Somalia, Sudan, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, West Africa, World Food Programme, World Vision, World War II, Yemen