EASTERN AFRICA: Severe food crisis hits region

Published on IRINnews, by aw-ah-jk/js/cb, 28 June 2011.

NAIROBI – Eastern Africa is experiencing what has been described as the “most severe food crisis in the world today”, with at least 10 million people affected in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Somalia is one of the hardest-hit countries in the region, with deaths reported in some areas amid alarming malnutrition levels.

“We are no longer on the verge of a humanitarian disaster; we are in the middle of it now. It is happening and no one is helping,” Isaq Ahmed, the chairman of the Mubarak Relief and Development Organization (MURDO), a local NGO working in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, told IRIN on 28 June. 

He said: “In the three districts of Qoryoley, Kurtunwarey and Sablale [in Lower Shabelle] our estimate is that some 5,000 families [30,000 people] have been seriously affected by the current drought.”

Ahmed said those who can are seeking survival in Mogadishu.

“Those remaining in the area are the ones who cannot even afford transport to Mogadishu,” he said, adding that a number of people had died due to a combination of hunger and related diseases.

“Most of those who died were children, the elderly, and lactating and pregnant mothers,” he said.

Up to eight people a day were being buried in Lower Shabelle, according to Sultan Sayidali Hassanow Aliyow Ibirow, a senior traditional elder in Lower Shabelle. Most of them were cattle herders who had lost everything.

“Three years of little or no rain have led to this disaster. People have not recovered from their previous losses and now we have an even worse drought,” he said.

Driest season since 1950: … //

… The recent March to May “long rains” in Kenya were poor for the second or third successive season in most rangelands and cropping lowlands, with many of these areas receiving 10-50 percent of normal rains, noted the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET).

The consequences include declining water and pasture, and subsequent livestock deaths. In the predominantly pastoralist north, a low milk supply has contributed to malnutrition levels soaring above 35 percent. The GAM rate in northwestern Turkana has hit 37.4 percent, the highest ever in the district.

Nationally, at least 3.2 million people are currently food insecure – up from a projection of 2.4 and 1.6 million in April and January, respectively.

Even in Kenya’s coastal region, thousands are food insecure, says the Kenya Red Cross Society’s (KRCS) region manager, Gerald Bombe.

“There is a need to import maize and distribute food and water to the hardest hit areas,” added Kevin Lunani, a local leader in the coastal Kisauni region. (full text).

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