East Africa Food Crisis 2011
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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.
Early warning systems had predicted this months earlier
As Inter Press Service (IPS) reported, despite the conflicts in the region,
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
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:
But, as Oxfam notes in another article, donors and governments fail to deliver on East Africa aid effort:
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.
One of the worst crises in recent history
The crisis is one of the worst in recent history:
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.
For more about the issues from other organizations, here are some starting points:
- Detailed information from UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- Coverage from UN’s refugee agency
- Coverage from UNICEF
- Coverage from Oxfam, including a report on key recommendations for local governments and the international community.
- News coverage from allAfrica.com
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:
RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct 23 (IPS) - No one died of hunger during the worst drought in Brazil's semiarid ecoregion, between 2011 and 2018, in sharp contrast to the past when scarce rainfall caused deaths, looting, a mass exodus to the South and bloody conflicts.
Jun 05 (IPS) - Food security in sub-Saharan Africa is under threat. The ability of many Africans to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs has been disrupted by successive natural disasters and epidemics. Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, locust outbreaks in eastern Africa, and droughts in southern and eastern Africa are some examples. The COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest catastrophe to have swollen the ranks of 240 million people going hungry in the region. In some countries, over 70 percent of the population has problems accessing food.
NAIROBI, Feb 14 (IPS) - Widespread hatching and movement of destructive desert locusts will turn into a full-blown crisis in the coming weeks in East Africa and neighbouring countries, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns.
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 24 (IPS) - A partnership between United Nations and African Union (AU) agencies will help African economies insure themselves against the droughts and other extreme weather events that plague the continent, organisers say.
DES MOINES, United States, Oct 21 (IPS) - Experts vaunted new strains of seeds, drone aircraft and other technological breakthroughs as solutions-in-the-making for farmers in Africa, where hunger, drought and food price hikes are continent-wide problems.
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 25 (IPS) - Humanitarian groups and the United Nations are warning of another drought in the Horn of Africa, threatening a repeat of the deadly dry spell and famine that claimed lives in Somalia and its neighbours eight years ago.
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 (IPS) - The United Nations has warned of drought, disease and war preventing farmers from producing enough food for millions of people across Africa and other regions, leading to the need for major aid operations.
ILLINOIS, United States, Mar 15 (IPS) - The latest UN Food and Agriculture Organization's annual Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition Report highlighted drought as one of the key factors contributing to the continuing rise in the number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa. And in South Africa, the Government's Crop Estimates Committee announced that the country would harvest 20 percent less maize in 2019 because of drought conditions.
Urgent Call for African Food Sovereignty Movements to Connect with Radical Feminist Movements on the Continent
JOHANNESBURG, Mar 08 (IPS) - This opinion piece is part of IPS coverage of International Women's Day on Mar. 8Africa is facing dire times. Climate change is having major impacts on the region and on agriculture in particular, with smallholder farmers, and especially women, facing drought, general lack of water, shifting seasons, and floods in some areas.
GEORGETOWN, Feb 01 (IPS) - The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD's) Drought Initiative is in full swing with dozens of countries signing up to plan their drought programme.
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct 12 (IPS) - This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16. Nathanial Matthews is Program Director and Deon Nel, CEO of the Global Resilience PartnershipOur food system requires fundamental transformation. Disasters and shocks, from extreme flooding to persistent drought, are occurring more frequently and lasting longer, threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of small farmers across the globe.
Eastern Cuba has suffered drought since time immemorial. But the western and central regions of the island used to be almost free of the phenomenon, until the latest drought that plagued this country between 2014 and 2017.
OSLO, Aug 30 (IPS) - Enayatullah Azad is Media, Information & Advocacy Coordinator, Norwegian Refugee CouncilAmid a precarious security situation in Afghanistan, the worst drought in recent history, that hit two out of three provinces in Afghanistan in July, has destabilized the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, some of whom have already been displaced.
DAKAR, Senegal, Jun 11 (IPS) - This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17.Hope, smiles and new vitality seem to be returning slowly but surely in various parts of the Sahel region, where the mighty Sahara Desert has all but ‘eaten' and degraded huge parts of landscapes, destroying livelihoods and subjecting many communities to extreme poverty.
ACCRA, Ghana, May 03 (IPS) - Muthoki Mumo/Committee to Protect Journalists* East Africa Correspondent & Jonathan Rozen/CPJ Researcher   This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.When Uganda in April ordered Internet service providers to shut down all news sites that had not been authorized by the communications regulator (pdf), it was the latest attempt by President Yoweri Museveni's government to constrict the space for independent media.
BRATISLAVA, Jan 22 (IPS) - A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said.
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 10 (IPS) - If aid deliveries are not resumed, Yemen will experience the worst famine the world has seen in recent decades.
NAIROBI, Oct 30 (IPS) - Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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