East Africa Food Crisis 2011

Author and Page information

  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Created Sunday, July 31, 2011

On this page:

  1. Introduction
  2. Early warning systems had predicted this months earlier
  3. Massive funding shortfall — assuming anyone cares
  4. One of the worst crises in recent history
  5. Media coverage
  6. More information
    1. News stories from IPS

Introduction

Into mid-2011, the world’s worst food crisis is being felt in East Africa, in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

Despite successive failed rains, the crisis has been criticized as avoidable and man-made. This is because the situation had been predicted many months before by an international early warning system. Both the international community and governments in the region have been accused of doing very little in the lead up to this crisis. In addition, high food prices have forced food out of the reach of many people, while conflict in Somalia has exacerbated the situation.

As the international organization Oxfam describes: 12 million people are in dire need of food, clean water, and basic sanitation. Loss of life on a massive scale is a very real risk, and the crisis is set to worsen over the coming months, particularly for pastoralist communities.

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Early warning systems had predicted this months earlier

As Inter Press Service (IPS) reported, despite the conflicts in the region,

The world had an opportunity to save thousands of lives that are being lost in parts of Somalia due to the famine, if only the donor community had paid attention to the early warning systems that predicted it eight months ago.

There has been a catastrophic breakdown of the world's collective responsibility to act. 3,500 people a day are fleeing Somalia and arriving in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya that are suffering one of the driest years in six decades. Food, water and emergency aid are desperately needed. By the time the U.N. calls it a famine it is already a signal of large scale loss of life, Oxfam said.

Isaiah Esipisu, Horn Of Africa: Poor Attention to Forecasts to Blame for Famine in Somalia, Inter Press Service, July 21, 2011

Knowing about these things in advance is significant in terms of lives, costs and preparedness. The US government agency USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network had predicted the crisis in November 2010, noting that

food security outcomes are likely to worsen, particularly among the poorest households whose coping capacity is the most limited.

In areas at‐risk of worsening food security, households may require livelihood support to prevent asset loss, household food deficits, and negative coping. Potential interventions in pastoral areas include rehabilitation of water points (boreholes), increased veterinary services targeting the dry season grazing areas, commercial off‐take programs, and nutrition support programs targeting poorer households. In the cropping southwest marginal areas of Kenya, and in Rwanda and Burundi, the scale‐up of resource transfer programs may be required to minimize the food security impacts of the La Niña event [that was observed at the end of 2010].

Pre-emptive livelihood support could mitigate likely La Niña impacts in the eastern Horn , East Africa Food Security Alert, FEWS.net, November 2, 2010

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Massive funding shortfall — assuming anyone cares

As international humanitarian and development organization Oxfam explained, many (often simple) preventative actions could have been taken, assuming funds were available earlier:

Whenever there is an indicator of such a disaster, we must not only sit and wait for the emergency response. We can conveniently invest the funds by putting irrigation systems in place, vaccinating people, especially children, against anticipated diseases, and creating proper infrastructure to be used in case there is need for food supply, said [Anna Ridout, Oxfam’s spokesperson]

Isaiah Esipisu, Horn Of Africa: Poor Attention to Forecasts to Blame for Famine in Somalia, Inter Press Service, July 21, 2011

But, as Oxfam notes in another article, donors and governments fail to deliver on East Africa aid effort:

The overall humanitarian requirements for the region this year, according to the UN appeals, are $1.87 billion. These are so far 45 percent funded, leaving a gap of over $1 billion still remaining: gaps of $332m and $296m for the Kenya and Somalia UN appeals respectively, and $398m for the government-run appeal in Ethiopia

In the last two weeks there have been new pledges of $205m, leaving a gap of $800m still remaining.

The UK has pledged an estimated $145m in the past two weeks - almost 15 percent of what is needed. The EU has pledged around $8m so far, with more expected in the coming days. Spain has pledged nearly $10m, Germany around $8.5m. France has so far not pledged any new money, and Denmark and Italy have said no significant new sums are available.

Donors and governments fail to deliver on East Africa aid effort, Oxfam, July 20, 2011

But it is not just the international community. Various actors in the region also face criticism and question. For example, as the above IPS article had also noted, the effects of the drought were made worse by the Al Shabaab militia group in Somalia, which had blocked donor agencies from operating within its territories in 2009 — now the famine zones. Admittedly, the extremist group recently lifted its ban, as IPS also noted.

Another example is the governments of the affected countries as well as the African Union. Ugandan journalist, Rosebell Kagumire, writing for Oxfam, noted that the African Union had complained about lack of funds because governments have not put enough money in. Although Kenya opened its borders for an influx of Somalian refugees, Kagumire criticized the response as lacking urgency and not being effective.

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One of the worst crises in recent history

The crisis is one of the worst in recent history:

Compared to previous famines, the current situation in Somalia compares or exceeds those reported during recent years in Niger (2005), Ethiopia (2001), Sudan (1998) and Somalia (1992). However, this is the most severe food security crisis in Africa since the 1991/92 Somalia famine, according to the U.N. Between January and June this year, 300,000 people in Mogadishu were given food assistance by humanitarian agencies on a monthly basis. Approximately 100,000 malnourished children were treated through some 418 nutrition centres in south Somalia from January to May 2011.

The current crisis in Somalia is expected to have an increasingly devastating effect on other countries in the region. However, generally, the Horn of Africa has 11.5 million people in crisis, including the 3.7 million in Somalia.

Isaiah Esipisu, Horn Of Africa: Poor Attention to Forecasts to Blame for Famine in Somalia, Inter Press Service, July 21, 2011

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Media coverage

Somewhat predictably, media coverage seems spotty. At times there are detailed reports, often responding to government and other large international agency pushes to address the crises. Other times, the coverage vanishes from mainstream headlines and prime time viewing almost as soon as reporting has started.

On the morning of Sunday, July 31, during a review of British Sunday newspapers by the BBC, commentators noted how only one paper had a front page story about this crisis while almost all of them had something about a second Royal wedding. (It wasn’t necessarily ignoring Africa, either, as the also important story about the US debt crisis also barely featured on any papers headlines!)

And of course, most of the reporting has followed after the crisis has happened.

It is also interesting to note how quickly the international community mobilized against Libya with military and other actions, when far less people (in number) were affected.

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More information

For more about the issues from other organizations, here are some starting points:

News stories from IPS

Below is a list of stories from Inter Press Service as they cover this event. Revisit this page frequently to see newer stories as the crisis unfolds:

  1. Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts... When Climate Sets the Agenda

    Monday, September 11, 2017

    ROME, Sep 11 (IPS) - When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

  2. How Aid in Cash, Not Goods, Averted a Famine in Somalia

    Friday, September 08, 2017

    UNITED NATIONS, Sep 08 (IPS) - In February, when the government of Somalia sounded an alarm to the UN about risks of a famine in the country, the UN's Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), besides quickly shuffling a response team, was acting from a steep sense of history. The Office, instead of sending out massive aid packages, distributed cash vouchers to families who could spend it to buy goods according to their needs.

  3. Pope Francis Donates to FAO for Drought, Conflict-Stricken East Africa

    Friday, July 21, 2017

    ROME, Jul 21 (IPS) - As an unprecedented gesture, Pope Francis has donated 25,000 euro to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's efforts supporting people facing food insecurity and famine in East Africa.

  4. East Africa's Poor Rains: Hunger Worsened, Crops Scorched, Livestock Dead

    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    ROME, Jul 19 (IPS) - Poor rains across East Africa have worsened hunger and left crops scorched, pastures dry and thousands of livestock dead, the United Nations food and agriculture agency has warned in a new alert.

  5. Drought Pushes 1 in 3 Somalis to a Hunger Knife-Edge

    Thursday, June 15, 2017

    ROME, Jun 15 (IPS) - Another famine in former European colonies in Africa and another time in its Eastern region, with Ethiopia and Somalia among the major victims of drought and made-made climate disasters mainly caused by US and European multinational business.

  6. Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?

    Tuesday, June 13, 2017

    ROME, Jun 13 (IPS) - Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate. In the specific case of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA), such an obliged choice implies the additional risk to turn peoples into easy prey to extremist, terrorist groups.

  7. The Relentless March of Drought - That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse

    Wednesday, June 07, 2017

    ROME, Jun 07 (IPS) - By 2025 –that's in less than 8 years from today-- 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. Now it is feared that advancing drought and deserts, growing water scarcity and decreasing food security may provoke a huge ‘tsunami" of climate refugees and migrants.

  8. In a “World of Plenty,” G7 Must Fight Famine

    Friday, May 26, 2017

    UNITED NATIONS, May 26 (IPS) - World leaders must step up and take action in fighting famine to prevent further catastrophic levels of hunger and deaths, said Oxfam.

  9. Collective Amnesia in Famine Response and Resilience-Building

    Thursday, May 04, 2017

    WASHINGTON DC, May 04 (IPS) - The emerging drought-induced humanitarian crisis—prevailing in countries from Niger in West Africa to Somalia in East Africa—and conflict-driven famine conditions in South Sudan, Somalia, and Northeast Nigeria, have become a regular phenomenon.

  10. Kenya Is Doing Its Part to Battle Drought, We Must Too

    Friday, April 28, 2017

    NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 (IPS) - After three years of drought and failed harvests, Kenya is in the grip of a national crisis.

    All eyes are on neighbouring Somalia and South Sudan – where the needs are indeed greater and more acute – but we must not forget the nearly 3 million Kenyans whose lives have been blighted by these extreme conditions.

  11. The Unbearable Cost of Drought in Africa

    Wednesday, April 12, 2017

    ROME, Apr 12 (IPS) - Nearly 50 per cent of all emergency multilateral food assistance to Africa is due to natural disasters, with advancing droughts significantly threatening both livelihoods and economic growth, warns the African Union through its ground-breaking extreme weather insurance mechanism designed to help the continent's countries resist and recover from the ravages of drought.

  12. Feast and Famine in Africa's Dubai

    Wednesday, April 05, 2017

    DJIBOUTI CITY, Apr 05 (IPS) - As balmy night settles over Djibouti City, the arc lights come on at its growing network of ports as ships are offloaded 24 hours a day and trucks laden with cargo depart westwards into the Horn of Africa interior.

  13. Caribbean Faces Forecast for Prolonged Drought

    Tuesday, March 28, 2017

    BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Mar 28 (IPS) - The Caribbean Drought & Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPMN) is warning countries in the region that the same abnormal climate conditions they have experienced over the last few years, which resulted in some of the worst drought in two decades, could continue this year.

  14. Climate Change Making Kenya's Droughts More Severe

    Sunday, March 12, 2017

    UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 (IPS) - The Super El Nino of 2015 to 2016 wrought droughts and floods around the world, yet it is its sister La Nina that is now fuelling drought and hunger in East Africa.

  15. Another Somalian Famine

    Wednesday, March 08, 2017

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Mar 08 (IPS) - Last month, the United Nations declared another famine threat in Somalia due to yet another drought in the Horn of Africa. Important lessons must be drawn from the Somalia famine of 2010-2012, which probably killed about 258,000 peoplehalf of whom were under-five. This was the greatest tragedy in terms of famine deaths in the 21st century, and in recent decades since the Ethiopian famine of the late 1980s.

  16. South Sudan Declares Famine, Other Countries May Follow Warns UNICEF

    Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    UNITED NATIONS, Feb 21 (IPS) - South Sudan Monday became the first country to declare famine since 2012, as UNICEF warned that 1.4 million children are at risk of dying from starvation with famine also imminent in Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.

  17. Worst Drought in Decades Drives Food Price Spike in East Africa

    Wednesday, February 15, 2017

    ROME, Feb 15 (IPS) - The most severe drought in decades, which has struck parts of Ethiopia and is exacerbated by a particularly strong El Niño effect, has led to successive failed harvests and widespread livestock deaths in some areas, and humanitarian needs have tripled since the beginning of 2015, the United Nations warns.

  18. Ravaging Drought Deepens in Kenya

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    NAIROBI, Feb 13 (IPS) - Experts warn that Kenya is in the grip of the worst drought in recent history as government estimates show the number of people who are acutely food insecure has risen to 2.7 million, up from two million in January.

  19. Threat of Famine Looms in Yemen

    Friday, January 06, 2017

    UNITED NATIONS, Jan 06 (IPS) - Millions of Yemenis could soon face widespread famine if no action is taken to improve food access through humanitarian or trade means, an early warning system has said.

  20. No More Mass Deaths from Drought in Northeast Brazil

    Friday, December 30, 2016

    OURICURI, Brazil, Dec 30 (IPS) - The drought that has plagued Brazil's semiarid Northeast region since 2012 is already more severe than the 1979-1983 drought, the longest in the 20th century. But prolonged dry spells no longer cause the tragedies of the past.

  21. Battle of the Desert (II): A ‘Great Green Wall for Africa’

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    ROME, Nov 20 (IPS) - Desertification, land degradation, drought, climate change, food insecurity, poverty, loss of biodiversity, forced migration and conflicts, are some of the key challenges facing Africa—a giant continent home to 1,2 billion people living in 54 countries.

  22. Chatterjee, new Resident Coordinator, to lead 25 UN agencies in East Africa

    Friday, August 26, 2016

    NAIROBI, KENYA, Aug 26 (IPS) - Siddharth Chatterjee, the Representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Kenya, has been appointed UN Resident Coordinator, where he will lead and coordinate 25 UN agencies in East Africa. At the same time, he will also serve as the Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

  23. Climate-Smart Agriculture for Drought-Stricken Madagascar

    Thursday, August 04, 2016

    AMBOASARY, Madagascar, Aug 04 (IPS) - Mirantsoa Faniry Rakotomalala is different from most farmers in the Greater South of Madagascar, who are devastated after losing an estimated 80 percent of their crops during the recent May/June harvesting season to the ongoing drought here, said to be the most severe in 35 years.

  24. New Alliance to Shore Up Food Security Launched in Africa

    Tuesday, August 02, 2016

    CAPE TOWN, Aug 02 (IPS) - As over 20 million sub-Saharan Africans face a shortage of food because of drought and development issues, representatives of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Pan African Parliament (PAP) met in Johannesburg to forge a new parliamentary alliance focusing on food and nutritional security.

  25. Newly Empowered Black Farmers Ruined by South Africa’s Drought

    Saturday, July 30, 2016

    CAPETOWN, Jul 30 (IPS) - Almost half a decade of drought across most of South Africa has led to small towns in crisis and food imports for the first time in over 20 years, as well as severely hampering the government's planned land redistribution programme.

  26. Malagasy Children Bear Brunt of Severe Drought

    Friday, July 08, 2016

    AMBOVOMBE, Madagascar, Jul 08 (IPS) - Voahevetse Fotetse can easily pass for a three-year-old even though he is six and a pupil at Ankilimafaitsy Primary School in Ambovombe district, Androy region, one of the most severely affected by the ongoing drought in the South of Madagascar.

  27. Drought Dries Up Money from Honey

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jun 15 (IPS) - "It is everything" is how smallholder farmer Nyovane Ndlovu describes beekeeping, which has long been an alternative sweet source of income for drought-beaten farmers in Zimbabwe.

  28. Seeds for Supper as Drought Intensifies in South Madagascar

    Tuesday, June 14, 2016

    BEKILY, Madagascar, Jun 14 (IPS) - Havasoa Philomene did not have any maize when the harvesting season kicked off at the end of May since like many in the Greater South of Madagascar, she had already boiled and eaten all her seeds due to the ongoing drought.

  29. El Nino-Induced Drought in Zimbabwe

    Friday, April 29, 2016

    BUHERA, Zimbabwe, Apr 29 (IPS) - Emaciated and with their ribs jutting out, Evans Sinyoro's cattle lie on the ground overlooking a dry patch of land while the small earth dam nearby is also dry, thanks to the El Nino-induced drought wreaking havoc across Zimbabwe.

  30. Harvesting Rainwater to Weather Drought in Northeast Argentina

    Monday, April 25, 2016

    CORZUELA, Argentina, Apr 25 (IPS) - In a semiarid region in the northeast Argentine province of Chaco, small farmers have adopted a simple technique to ensure a steady water supply during times of drought: they harvest the rain and store it in tanks, as part of a climate change adaptation project.

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Where next?

Related articles

  1. Conflicts in Africa—Introduction
  2. East Africa Food Crisis 2011
  3. Middle East and North Africa Unrest
  4. Crisis in Libya
  5. Cote d’Ivoire Crisis
  6. The Democratic Republic of Congo
  7. Nigeria and Oil
  8. Sierra Leone
  9. Conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea
  10. Rwanda

Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Sunday, July 31, 2011

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