Famine in the horn of Africa

Original article: Roskilde University, Papaya Magazine  Issue nr 2 : www.thepapayamag.com 

By the time i’ve written this article it’s very likely that someone in the horn of Africa will have died of starvation. The death rate in parts of East Africa affected by the ongoing drought and famine is said to be as high as 7.4 out of 10’000, an astronomical amount that is over seven times higher than the internationally recognised emergency figure of 1 out of 10’000. In point of fact, the crisis that East Africa faces at present may well be the worst the region has ever experienced, a crisis whose severity has prompted the United Nations to declare famine in two regions of Southern Somalia, the first time this has been done in 30 years.



pic: The Daily Telegraph

More than merely a lack of rainfall.

The underlying factors behind the 2011 famine are rooted principally in failed rains in Kenya and Ethiopia this year, which coupled with a lack of rainfall in Somalia for the last three years have triggered drastic crop failures and livestock loss. Translated into economic terms, this has implied record high crop prices and stifled purchasing power due to severely reduced incomes. In Somalia, price inflation is as high as 240% above average price levels, a predicament that renders well over 10 million people (twice the population of Denmark) in dire need of basic food aid. The complexity of the problem is accentuated by the dominion that the rebel group, Al Shabaab hold over Somalia. The fundamentalist stranglehold maintained by Somalia’s de facto ruling power has severely hampered aid efforts as Al Shabaab have categorically stated that the U.N are not welcome in Somalia and that any aid should be given to Al Shabaab initially, who will then administer it to the afflicted. To reinforce their hostility towards humanitarian efforts, Al Shabaab have kidnapped and killed several aid workers during the crisis leading to a partial suspension of aid initiatives in Somalia. Al Shabaab’s influence has prompted mass migration out of Somalia and into overcrowded refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, in itself triggering a humanitarian crisis due to overstretched resource use at the packed camps, some of whom are operating up to 3 times over their maximal holding capacities. Higher infant mortality, malnutrition rates amongst children under 5 years of age of up to 33%, heightened disease risk, water shortages and increased sexual violence towards women are the direct results of overcrowded refugee camps.

The international response

Aid agencies have appealed for bn to combat the crisis. However, as of the 1st of August 2011, less than half of the required amount had been secured. The U.K and Canada have been at the forefront of spearheading monetary contributions, pledging over million together. Other nations such as the United States have given comparatively little. The U.S has however frozen legislation advocating for the prosecution of aid agencies that enter rebel-controlled regions, a welcome albeit late and protracted gesture.

The work of Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke

Aid organisations such as Oxfam, The U.N, UNHCR, The Red Cross and others are working round the clock to stem the humanitarian crisis, in an attempt to address the short term needs of starving populations in the horn of Africa. However, more concrete solutions are needed to ensure that future famines are not as severe and to cultivate regional sustainability. Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke is a Danish old aid organisation that has been involved in 3rd world aid for 60 years. In addition to providing emergency relief aid to Africa’s horn at the moment, MS has outlined a 3 year plan for the region that attempts to create more sustainability and independence which it is hoped will provide afflicted communities with resources and more importantly knowledge so that future natural disasters may be combatted more efficiently. Part of this strategy includes ensuring increased school attendance, constructing water-holding facilities to aid rainwater collection, education in sustainable land use for farmers, establishing local food stocks that can be accessed in times of famine, promoting human rights, particularly amongst women and other incentives.


What you can do.

All the help that can be solicited is needed to combat the crisis in Africa. A small donation of any sort goes a long way to helping those afflicted and the ways one can contribute are numerous. Local organisations such as care, IBIS and MS have structured means through which one can contribute. Check out the following websites for more details. For example, MS have set up a temporary number which one can send a sms to in order to send monetary aid.

–  SMS teksten MS50 til 1919 to donate 50 kroner.
–  SMS teksten MS100 til 1919 to donate 100 kroner.
–  SMS teksten MS150 til 1919 to donate 150 kroner.

More information on how one can help can be found at the following websites and from the many fundraisers hired by aid organisations to roam the streets of Copenhagen in search of monetary contributions.




Donating is quick, easy, goes a long way to saving lives and costs comparatively little for the average resident of any given first world country. The lives of 10 million people are at stake.




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