Children Most Vulnerable Victims in Horn of Africa Food Crisis

Photo from USAID - "USAID is providing life-saving nutrition and care for nearly 60,000 malnourished mothers and children in the Somali Region of Ethiopia."

Between the tragic attacks in Norway, the debate over the pressing debt ceiling timeline, and the Murdoch scandal, this week has bombarded us with headlines.  This week has also brought us heart wrenching images of children in the Horn of Africa, emaciated by weeks of drought and consequently, drastic food shortages.  We are now witnessing the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years.   Families, desperate for relief, have walked days in search of refuge in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.  Although thousands are far too frail to make the journey, ABC reports that refugee camps are “bursting at the seams.”

Children are the most vulnerable victims in this devastating crisis.  In a recently published article, The Guardian called it “the children’s famine.” USAID reported that while all of the children currently in the refugee camps are in need of emergency care and long-term support, nearly half are suffering from acute malnutrition. The need for products like Plumpy’nut is clearer than ever; two million children are in critical need of immediate food aid.  Ready-to-use therapeutic foods like Plumpy’nut do not need to mixed with water, can be distributed to those in refugee camps, and are packed with the calories, vitamins, and nutrients desperately needed by malnourished children.  Children who suffer from malnutrition are also far more susceptible to other ailments and disease. This is especially prevalent in places like refugee camps, which continue to increase in population daily.

Immediate aid is needed as relief organizations are seeing demand far outweigh supply.     Dr. Malia Kader of the International Refugee Committee stressed, “Resources are stretched. . . There’s a lot of strain on the system. We are trying to cope. The numbers are unprecedented.”  She went on to say, ”The kind of support we need is funding so we can buy more therapeutic food and it’s simple life-saving antibiotics and high calorific food” (ABC).  With the next harvest not set to take place for another four to five months, many see no immediate end in sight to the crisis.

“The Perfect Storm”

For several reasons, the situation in the Horn of Africa has quickly transpired from bad to worse.  CNN published an overview of the many factors that contributed to this dire humanitarian situation.  For the full report, read here.

As desperately as food is needed for millions in the Horn of Africa, the military extremist group, Al-Shabab, has blocked foreign aid in many regions of Somalia. Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali stated, “The extremists are literally and deliberately starving the people to death” (Reuters Africa).  The extremist group has actually gone on to say that the drought is “propaganda” and claimed that the UN has falsified the magnitude of the situation.

By examining the root, structural causes of this horrific crisis, we must question why it takes a crisis of this size to make international headlines.  Of course, we regularly hear of worsening political situations, rising food prices, and hunger statistics, but still, two million children are in dire need of help.  We’ve seen food crises like this before.  Why do they continue?  Why do we allow history to repeat itself?  What can we do differently to ensure that nothing of this magnitude occurs again?


Photo from ONE - "Children play outside makeshift shelters in Mogadishu. Photo credit: Phil Moore/Concern Worldwide"

How Can I Help? – USAID Disaster Assistance Guide

Plumpy’nut Desperately Needed to Save Children in East Africa – Article by William Lamber’s on Edesia’s response to the crisis

The Guardian – East Africa Famine: Our Values are on Trial – Outstanding article on the impact of Plumpy’nut in the Horn of Africa

The Guardian – Famine We Could Avoid – An answer to some of the questions above

Concern Worldwide Emergency Appeal –  “Your donation could provide high-energy food for critically malnourished children and help bring them back from the brink. It could help us expand our work with communities to deliver safe, clean water and help stop the spread of disease.”








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