IT IS OFFICIALLY A FAMINE NOW
At least 11 million people in the Horn of Africa and wider Eastern African region are now said to be suffering from a famine, which has been described as the worst in decades, aggravated by the civil war in Somalia and the hostilities and tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
A refugee camp in North Eastern Kenya has become the focus of the world media, as over 400.000 mainly Somali women, children and elderly people have streamed across the desert like landscapes to find a drink and a mouthful to eat in a facility build for initially only 70.000 people.
More arrivals are recorded daily and UN agencies and NGO’s are struggling to keep up with the fast rate of newcomers and their medical and nutritional needs.
Figures from in particular Al Shabab controlled areas of Somalia paint a grim picture of wide spread starvation, hunger and death with the Islamic fanatics reportedly calling it an ‘Act of God’ inflicted on Somalia as ‘punishment’ – exposing them as the cruel and inconsiderate radicals and terrorists they are, not giving a damn about the welfare of Somalia’s population and using famine as another weapon to establish their ‘kingdom come nightmare state’.
The UN is now seeking urgent intervention and contributions by member countries to avail food aid, medical aid and other logistical support, but the response is slow considering the war like scenario awaiting aid agency personnel, who can expect to be abducted and held hostage by Al Shabab for political considerations and to extort ‘a share’ of the aid channeled to the needy to themselves and their cronies.
The situation lends also new impetus to the call by Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to be serious about combating the Islamic militias and Al Qaida affiliates hiding out in Somalia, as no reconstruction nor wide scale aid to the suffering populations can happen before these elements have been defeated and driven out of Somalia. But the African Union, under which mandate mainly Ugandan and Burundian troops are stationed in Somalia to keep the transitional federal government in place until free and fair elections can be organized, is loath to engage in an outright combat mission while the UN too has been delaying a decision on a full sea and air embargo to prevent the flow of weapons into Somalia and halt the arrival of ever more militants from across the Arab and Islamic world.
Food crisis calls have also emerged from within Kenya, Ethiopia, Northern Uganda and even the Sudan, where rains have either failed or been insufficient to make up from the devastating 2007-2009 drought the region suffered from and regional governments, already struggling with devaluation, inflationary pressures and fuel prices still rising are considered ill equipped to deal with the added demands on their own.
The added component is the re-emerging conflict between pastoralists and national park managers, as the former may once again start driving their cattle and goat herds into the parks in search of pasture and water with the park managers resisting so that wildlife habitat, also suffering from drought, can be protected and tourism continue to bring money into coffers.
Governments though may initially turn a blind eye on these re-emerging conflicts, more so as people have votes and animals do not, and with Kenya in particular gearing up for elections to be held in late 2012, crucial questions which need answers now concerning famine, drought, starvation combined with inflation and falling currency values will be a long way coming. But will sticking the head in the sand a la ostrich really make the problems go away or will the much maligned Western development partners and donors have to step in once again to come to the rescue of the African people where their own governments choose politicking over doing the right thing.
Time will tell, so watch this space.