Feb 23rd, 2012 2:40 PM UTC
By Jamie Drummond
Today the global spotlight is once again on Somalia as Prime Minister David Cameron hosts what is being called the “London Somalia Conference”. It is over six months since famine was declared in Somalia and as the UN declared famine over earlier this month, today is an appropriate time to reflect on the emergency of last year and to regroup for the challenges ahead.
In a summer that saw riots across London, the economic crisis in Europe and scandal on fleet street – the images of starving in Somalia were almost lost in the deluge of panic. They seemed to be images from another time, not the Africa we know today. Our response F-famine, deemed “shocking” and too political for TV, was a collective outcry that such an obscenity could occur in the 21st century.
While the global response was slow, the UK government acted quickly to send life-saving aid to over 3 million people. And we know from our friends and partners in the country the aid helped. As Mo Farah, one of our supporters said in the Sun today “the British public can be really proud of the difference they have made.”
It is commendable the UK is building on this leadership by hosting the conference today. The conference must help build a lasting solution to the causes of instability in Somalia which in turn undermine development and food security. It can also help boost longer term efforts to rid the world of the causes of famine hunger and malnutrition.
When opening the conference David Cameron recognised that it’s not enough just to give emergency aid. Whilst the 750,000 famine deaths averted last year is a wonderful humanitarian achievement, we also need to provide “long-term agricultural development assistance that will help them not only survive the lean season but actually put themselves and their families on the path to sustainability and self-sufficiency.”
There is much the international community can do to achieve this end. Investing in farming, ensuring safety nets are in place to protect the poorest people, and learning from mistakes to ensure early warnings are heeded. These issues should be prioritised at global meetings throughout 2012; at the G8, at the Olympics, the Africa Union Summits, at the G20 and of course, as we build towards the UK hosted G8 in 2013.
In Somalia, more than anywhere, we are reminded that famines are not caused by drought alone. Any lasting solution to famine in the region must include a political solution. As the attendees of our Horn of Africa Diaspora discussion pointed out last summer, African voices must be given a platform to advocate for solutions that will stick. In Somalia there are many great leaders at a grassroots level across the country whose stories are often unheard – and we should look to them for leadership. All the people of Somalia should be consulted about their dreams and aspirations.
David Cameron should be commended for hosting this conference, and for his effort to look beyond the crisis towards long-term solutions. While there’s a long list of ambitions for the conference, a future free of famine must be a top priority. As the L’Aquila commitments for agriculture reach their deadline this year, and we celebrate the tenth anniversary of African leaders’ Maputo Declaration to invest 10% of their budget in agriculture, today’s conference should also start a serious international effort to tackle the causes of famine, hunger and malnutrition across Africa.
For further background on the situation in Somalia I recommend the International Crisis Group report.
Feb 7th, 2012 1:07 PM UTC
By Adrian Lovett
“Famine outcomes no longer exist in southern Somalia”. These eight words, at the start of a dry assessment released on Friday by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit in Nairobi, can hardly be considered a cause for celebration. For the last four months, a part of the world had been struck by famine – not just food shortage, or even extreme hunger, but the appalling conditions that meet the strict technical definition of a famine. As ONE insisted, no f-word could be more obscene. Drought may be inevitable, but famine is not – and famine in the 21st century is an obscenity.
So it’s difficult to jump for joy at the news that this famine has come to an end – not least because millions of people in the Horn of Africa are still in desperate need. In Somalia especially, where new concerns about access for humanitarian organisations are emerging, the famine has left people more vulnerable than ever. Like a determined boxer who hauls himself to his feet after taking a beating, the next punch could be the most devastating of all.
And yet, the fact remains that while the world took too long to act on early warnings of crisis in 2011, it did act. Millions of people, from ordinary citizens to policymakers, stepped forward. The global African diaspora demanded action. 400,000 people signed ONE’s petition urging leaders to do more. Leading politicians responded in the European Commission, the African Union, the UK, Sweden and Kenya. Millions of people contributed to the UN’s most successful humanitarian appeal and record public appeals in Britain, Germany and countless other countries. Critically, aid workers from Africa and across the world delivered relief in the most challenging of conditions, and continue to do so right now. All these actions saved lives.
And now this belated but strong effort has been rewarded with a little good fortune. Somalia has enjoyed a better-than-expected harvest. That has pushed food prices down in local markets and there is, for now at least, room to breathe.
Now the obvious question: can we stop this happening again? If political promises made years ago had been kept in the first place, we could have avoided much of the terrible human cost of the last few months. They must be kept now – by African governments who promised to invest ten per cent of their money on agriculture, and by richer nations who made commitments at the G8. And of course it isn’t just about money. More progress was made at last year’s Cannes G20 summit to reduce the volatility in global food prices that has caused havoc in the poorest families’ budgets. That progress needs to be built on urgently.
Together, we managed to force action on this famine over the last few months. Let’s keep that pressure up. We need to build a movement that can keep food and agriculture at the top of the agenda. The US, who host this year’s G8 summit, have a big leadership role. The Horn of Africa’s wealthy neighbours in the Gulf are global players too, well able to do their part. And governments in Europe must keep their promises, starting with the British-led conference on Somalia later this month. Overcoming extreme hunger is not just a fight we must face. It’s one we can win.
Jan 20th, 2012 11:34 AM UTC
By Michael Healy
Mo Farah’s list of accolades is jaw dropping. Since arriving in the UK from war torn Somalia at the age of 8 he has risen through the ranks to become arguably the greatest long-distance runner in the history of UK athletics. He is currently 5,000m world champion, 10,000m silver medallist and one of the favourites for the pinnacle of athletics success at this summer’s Olympic games in London. He also holds a number of British and European records over those two distances. I’m exhausted just writing about it!
Mo can now add founding the Mo Farah Foundation to his impressive list of achievements. As a Somali native, Mo regularly visits family in the Horn of Africa and is all too aware of the problems that many in the region faces today. As such, his foundation is working to raise funds to provide essential lifelines to those suffering from malnutrition and starvation. In the longer term, they aim to provide and maintain community water wells, crop seeds for agricultural farming and the tools to sustain this essential way of life. Mo’s links to the country mean that this is an issue very close to his heart:
“As someone born in Somalia this is something that is very important to me. I’ve seen the situation out there and I want to help make a difference. There are kids out there right now who are starving and I want the foundation to be able to help them get over this and plan for the future. That’s why the work of organisations like ONE, which campaigns for better funding for solutions to the problems that lead to famine, is so important.”
This long term work is crucial for the development of the region and the importance of the work of groups like Mo’s Foundation cannot be underestimated. Most food crises are preventable and investments in agriculture can actually help people become more resilient to shocks such as drought. Other types of investments in rural roads, proper storage facilities, and access to improved seed varieties can also build tolerance to drought, save grains from previous seasons and help communities access food when drought strikes. But it is not just up to private foundations to tackle the problem. Government’s around the world need to improve their funding of long-term agricultural solutions for drought-stricken regions like the Horn of Africa.
In 2009, the G8 pledged $22 billion for agricultural development in developing countries and committed to principles to guide the quality, effectiveness, and accountability of their aid. Some countries have clarified their commitments, outlining how much is new money and constructing plans that will ensure that the principles are upheld. However our recent report “Agricultural Accountability” revealed that G8 and G20 countries had only delivered on a fifth of the promised amount. This is unacceptable. We need governments to step up and work with partners like the Mo Farah Foundation to ensure that the world doesn’t slide back into another food crisis and, instead, find successful solutions to help ensure that droughts do not inevitably to famine.
To find out more, please visit www.mofarahfoundation.co.uk
Oct 4th, 2011 12:12 PM UTC
I’ve been known to drop the occasional expletive, but the most offensive F word to me is not the one that goes f***. It’s F***** — the famine happening in Somalia.
Drought, violence and political instability have invited in the grim reaper on a scale we have not seen in 20 years… more than 30,000 children have died in just three months. The pictures from Dadaab look like a nightmare from centuries past. Yet, this is the 21st century and these pictures are real and, on the whole, unseen. The food crisis in the Horn of Africa is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe, but it is getting less attention than the latest Hollywood break-ups and make-ups.
ONE’s new film The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity isn’t a typical emotional emergency appeal. It’s about focusing the media spotlight on the tragedy unfolding. It’s about building political support in the US and around the world for interventions that will stop the suffering today and break the cycle of famine in the future. Most of all, it’s about taking action — because famine is man-made.
Of course it’s complex, and solutions are difficult — especially in Somalia where there has not been a formal government for 20 years. But that is not an excuse for the world to look the other way. Most of us (thankfully) have no experience of starvation, but we do know what it’s like to lose someone you love. Each of those 30,000 children was someone’s daughter or son, someone’s sister or brother. If you look at reports from the Horn, there are stories of mothers having to decide which child to feed and which to let die; women leaving their children’s bodies on the side of the road as they walk for weeks in search of food and water for those still fighting for life.
History shows there are ways to prevent drought from becoming famine, even though it’s complicated. So check out the film and sign ONE’s petition to world leaders calling on them to live up to promises already made to invest in things proven to work… early warning systems… irrigation… drought resistant seeds… and of course, peace and security. At ONE.org there’s more explanation and information. And while ONE doesn’t solicit funding, if you want to give money, you can find links to other organizations providing emergency assistance in the Horn who need all the support they can get.
This article first appeared on the The Huffington Post
Aug 18th, 2011 10:00 AM UTC
By Sarah Scully
There are many factors that are inhibiting those suffering from the food crisis in Somalia to leave their country and seek help, food and refuge elsewhere — but al-Shabaab, an organization that controls much of south-central Somalia, is making it virtually impossible.
Currently, there are more than 1.46 million internally displaced people — people who are forced to flee their homes but remain within their country’s borders — in Somalia. Women and children make up 80% of displaced persons in the Horn of Africa region, and within the past two months 100,000 people have arrived in the capital of Mogadishu, pushing the number of displaced people in the city to 470,000.
Al-Shabaab is not only making it hard for aid organizations to reach people in need, but it is also reportedly preventing desperate people from leaving the area it controls. According to the Atlantic Council, the organization is using force — or the threat thereof — to prevent displaced people from leaving its territory to find help.
Although not monolithic, al-Shabaab controls much of southern Somalia and has ties to the global terrorist network, al-Qaeda. The State Department estimates that 60 percent of the 3.7 million Somalis in need are in al-Shabaab controlled territory, which makes avoiding al-Shabaab impossible.
Fortunately, that number is likely to drop significantly, as al-Shabaab recently withdrew from Mogadishu, where it has wielded control for the past several years. The move will facilitate aid workers’ ability to access the area. While this is good news, their motives are uncertain, and the challenges posed by al-Shabaab will persist throughout other areas in the south. Governments and organizations are helping improve aid access where they can.
AMISOM, an African peacekeeping mission currently deployed in Somalia, is providing security for the refugee population and accompanying aid workers and relief supplies to the interior. A few weeks ago, AMISOM foiled two attempted suicide bombings in Mogadishu.
The US government recently eased the burden of restrictions for aid organizations working in the Horn of Africa, allowing more aid to reach the area. Between the easing of restriction and the withdrawal of al-Shabaab for Mogadishu, significant improvements have been reported, but access remains the number one challenge to aid delivery.
This week, hope began to materialize for internally-displaced Somalis, when emergency supplies from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), were delivered to Mogadishu via air lift. UNHCR hopes to raise $145 million from donors to help refugees and internally displaced people in the Horn of Africa. So far, it has raised $65 million in contributions and pledges, only enough to cover 45 percent of projected needs.
While aid organizations and agencies operate at full capacity to reach as many people as possible, millions remain malnourished and trapped in drought-stricken areas, or displaced.
Aug 16th, 2011 10:00 AM UTC
By ONE Partners
Sinead Murray of the International Rescue Committee sheds light on a hidden side of the Horn of Africa crisis: gender-based violence.
Dadaab, Kenya — On the outskirts of Hagadera, a refugee camp near the town of Dadaab, Somali women and their families are gathered, desperately seeking assistance after fleeing a famine and the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa region in six decades.
Newly arriving refugees from Somalia are housed in the outskirts of Dadaab. Photo credit: Edward Macharia/ IRC.
I have been working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) here for nearly a year. Looking around this arid, desolate corner of northwestern Kenya — barely 50 miles from the Somali border — it is hard to imagine that this is where more than 1,000 people a day come to look for help.
Famine has gripped headlines in recent weeks. Yet the story you might not have heard is what I consider the hidden side of this crisis –- violence against women and girls.
Two weeks ago, I sat in a thatch-roofed hut outside Hagadera speaking with a group of Somali women who had just crossed one of the most dangerous borders in the world. Their stories were alarming and disturbingly similar: Women and girls were taken from overcrowded vehicles, then robbed and raped by men with guns. Many were raped by multiple attackers, sometimes in front of their own families. Some “came to the camp naked,” one woman confided.
Each day, my IRC colleagues see a growing number of women and girls seeking help for the attacks they encountered on the road. But there are many more that don’t come forward, either out of shame and fear –- or simply because by the time they reach Dadaab, they are so exhausted and hungry that what happened to them along the way is one of many urgent concerns.
Sadly, Dadaab has not proven to be the safe haven that many women and girls had hoped for. The camps here are buckling under the pressure of a steadily increasing stream of refugees. New arrivals must wait on the outskirts, where aid agencies are trying to stretch their limited funding to meet the enormous needs all around. The result is that Dadaab simply isn’t safe for women and girls. They must walk far to get firewood and water, risking attack just to cook food for their families.
While the famine has been portrayed as a natural disaster, this crisis is not so simple. There is a complex web of conflict and insecurity in the region that has not only subjected millions of people to hunger and disease, but also to violence. And women and girls are facing the biggest risks.
This crisis couldn’t have hit at a worse time. As the US Congress spent the summer trying to make deeper cuts in spending, there is little funding available to go to an emergency like this. This is unfortunate because we know that with the right attention and resources, easy solutions can be put in place. Aid groups like the IRC can scale up services that help survivors recover and heal. We can construct more water points and latrines so that women and girls don’t need to risk attack in the forest. We can create safe spaces so that women and girls have a place to go for assistance and support.
The United States has been a leader in investing in women and girls, stating loudly and clearly that their needs are of primary importance to our country’s development and security goals. If there is one place where such leadership is needed today, it is in the Horn of Africa. Somali women and girls are counting on it.
For more information about the International Rescue Committee’s work in the Horn of Africa go to our Famine and Drought in the Horn website.
Sinead Murray is the International Rescue Committee’s gender-based violence program manager based in Dadaab, Kenya.
Aug 12th, 2011 11:11 AM UTC
By Kathy McKiernan
ONE cofounder Bono and Somali-born singer and poet K’naan interviewed with CNN’s Anderson Cooper this week on the growing crisis in Somalia and urged the world to put a higher priority on responding to what has become a humanitarian catastrophe.
Anderson and Sanjay Gupta have been reporting from Dadaab and Mogadishu this week, bringing forth heart-breaking stories of the tens of thousands of children who have already died as a result of the famine, with 600,000 more at imminent risk. The world is not responding fast enough to this crisis. There is still a $1 billion funding gap that must be met or millions more could die.
As Bono and K’naan said:
Bono: “It’s hard to believe that this is the 21st century and you know we mustn’t let the complexity of the situation absolve us from responsibility to act. That’s really the message … When you hear stories, and as you’ve reported, of women leaving their dead children on the road to come beg for food, to choose between children, can you imagine? ‘I have to leave this one, he looks the weakest or she looks the weakest, I’ll take this one.’ This is outrageous! This can’t be happening, it must be stopped. And it’s not our intentions, it’s our actions. It’s not the possibilities of the United Nations or the AU, it’s our priorities that define us. This is a defining moment.”
K’naan: “I think people have created a psychological fence around their hearts where Somalia is concerned. We have to find a way to get past that, and look at the humanity of what is happening and help people who are in need of our help at this moment. We are not usually the sort of people who take the victim’s seat. We are people who stand up for ourselves. But it’s a very, very dire, dire situation.”
To see the entire interview, click on the video above. And please sign ONE’s petition asking world leaders to respond to the crisis now.
Jul 28th, 2011 3:53 PM UTC
By ONE Partners
Joint blog by Jamie Drummond and Marieme Jamme:
ONE and Africa Gathering today co-hosted a meeting at ONE’s London offices to share information and discuss both short and long term solutions to the current crisis in the Horn of Africa.
Discussion focused on how to ensure there is a platform for African voices to be heard on this issue, including those from the Horn of Africa, and especially from Somalia, to advocate for solutions that will stick.
Often in the past the international community has not listened sufficiently, nor acted with a sophisticated understanding of cultural issues or the local situation. As a result opportunities for progress have been missed. We are determined to do our part to ensure these mistakes are not repeated.
Attending were a cross section of representatives from the African entrepreneurial community, international development community including Muslim Aid, Disasters Emergency Committee and other development groups, diaspora communities, artists and Somalian grassroots groups as well as members of the media.
Amongst many views expressed, we discussed the following action items, and many of the attendees agreed to act together to:
Saif Ahmed CEO MADE in Europe
Mark Tran Journalist Guardian
Hadeel Ibrahim Executive Director Mo Ibrahim foundation
Kingwa Kamencu President Oxford African Society
Kath Hindley Deputy Chief Executive DEC
Andy Shipley News Editor Plan UK
Mustakim Waid Public Relations Manager Somali Relief and Development Forum
Jonaed Afzal Emergency Response Manager Muslim Aid
Marieme Jamme Spontone Global Solutions Africa Gathering
Sol Guy Co-founder 4REAL Manager of K’naan
Bunmi Olurantaba African Blogger
Lilly Peel Features Editor Panos.org
Katheleen Bomani Africa Gathering
Belinda Otas African Blogger/Journalist
James Birch APPG on Agriculture
Tolu Ogunlesi African Blogger for 234NEXT
Dean Ricketts Watchmen Agency
Hussain Abdullah Frontline SMS
John Morris Journalist
Bernard Aryeetey Save the Children
Mark Galloway The International Broadcast Trust
Dawda Jobarteh Africa Progress Panel
Amber Rudd MP for Hastings
Molly Mattessich National Peace Corps Association
Nii Simmonds The DAIN Network
Jul 19th, 2011 5:22 PM UTC
By Stuart McWilliam
You may have seen the pictures of starving people in the Horn of Africa on your TV screens. We are all asking: how can this be happening again? Parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are facing one of the worst droughts for 60 years, and around 10 million people are desperately in need of food, clean water and basic sanitation. But something can be done. You can add your voice to help make a difference.
Despite the urgency of the situation, most world leaders are responding too slowly. Immediate aid is essential. Yet at the same time we must not let them drop the ball on long term solutions as has too often happened in the past.
Dear World Leaders,
Please urgently provide the full funding that the UN has identified as necessary to help people in the Horn of Africa, and please keep your promises to deliver the long term solutions which could prevent crises like this happening again.
Some people look back to previous droughts and question whether things will ever change. But because of the smart aid that is supporting African leadership, progress really is being made. For example, 87% of people in the world today have enough food to eat and lead healthy lives – up from just 76% in 1970. And in Ethiopia the number of people malnourished has fallen from 71% in 1992 to 46% now.
But we know how to change things even more: we can help stop starvation now – and stop the causes of starvation. Firstly, we need to make sure funding is provided to pay for urgent help that will prevent people from dying. Secondly, the promises that world leaders made to invest in long term solutions must be kept, so that the people of this region can feed themselves and will not need food aid in the future.
Thanks for helping us to pressure our governments to save millions of lives – today and tomorrow.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.