On February 3rd, the famine in Somalia was declared over — but as my colleague Adrian Lovett wrote in a blog post last week, this is hardly a cause for celebration.
If you think about it, the technical definition of famine is when you have more than 2 people or 4 kids under 5 per 10,000 die each day from lack of access to food and water.
So people can still be dying or families can still be experiencing extreme hardship — just fewer of them. Even if there isn’t a famine, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a food crisis. We are clearly not “in the clear.”
For starters, many people in Somalia and the wider Horn region are still at risk, although the situations in Ethiopia and Kenya are stabilizing. Across the Horn of Africa, there are still 10.4 people in need. In Somalia, 2.3 million people at risk and 1.4 million people in urgent need of assistance. In order to assist those Somalis in need, there is a new 2012 UN Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP).
Albeit revised a few times, it’s actually been in effect since September 2011. Yet somehow, nearly 5 months later in February 2012, the 2012 appeal of $1.4 billion is just 7 percent funded for Somalia, and just 16 percent funded for the Horn of Africa. Have we actually forgotten our hard learned lessons so quickly?
There is no doubt that famine could have been prevented if donors had responded sooner. ONE’s Hungry No More campaign stressed that drought is inevitable, but famine is not. We have the early warning systems in place, the calls have gone out, but action once again is too slow.
Hopefully the conference hosted by the UK on February 23rd on Somalia will help write a different tune. Although much of the conference will be dominated by security concerns, there is a platform dedicated to addressing humanitarian issues where David Cameron is expected to highlight the need for continued and sustained momentum. NGOs will also be gathering a few days before to keep up the pressure.
And momentum and pressure are exactly what’s needed. In addition to the on-going crisis in Somalia and the wider Horn region, Africa’s opposite coast is looming under the threat of another food crisis. The situation hasn’t escalated yet, but what are we waiting for? According to TIME, a third of the population in the Sahel –- a mainly semi-arid region that stretches across West Africa -– are at risk of hunger.
SEE ALSO: The fight against the famine continues
But this is not new. Hunger for many people in West Africa is chronic and occurs each year during the hunger season. This only underscores the need for long-term investments in agriculture -– just like the ones that donors promised at the 2009 G8 L’Aquila summit and just like the ones African governments promised to spend on their own populations.
ONE will continue to hold donors accountable to these promises to increase spending on agriculture, food security and nutrition. By heading early warnings of food crises on the rise and making smart investments in long-term solutions, together we can break the cycle of poverty.