East Africa Food Crisis
February 6, 2012
One year later, Oxfam emphasizes that while the situation has improved, Oxfam will continue to work with communities in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, to help reduce chronic vulnerability to drought and food insecurity. From a historical perspective, the world has undoubtedly moved on in our ability to save lives. The numbers of disasters are on the increase. So too is the number of people exposed to them. But the numbers that actually die has gone down.
The UN declared famine in six regions of Somalia in the summer of 2011. Thanks to rains, a good harvest in river areas and effective humanitarian aid, the famine status was downgraded to ‘very critical food crisis’ in February, 2012. About 125,000 children no longer face severe malnutrition. However, Oxfam’s country director in Somalia says “the world should not turn its back on Somalia, solely because statistics say there is no longer a famine.” The UN says 2.34 million Somalis remain in crisis.
This is now the worst food crisis in the region of the 21st century, and the first time that famine has been declared in this region since at least 1992. Droughts and food crises have occurred regularly in recent years, but the current situation is particularly serious.
In many areas emergency conditions are expected to persist well into 2012. Oxfam is there and, together, we need to provide immediate assistance before it's too late.
Oxfam is on the ground responding to the crisis
Oxfam needs your help to reach 3.5 million people with clean water, food and basic sanitation. With the donations we have received so far, we are already helping hundreds of thousands of people:
- Oxfam has reached 1.5 million people in Somalia with clean water, sanitation and public health promotion to prevent diseases like cholera and acute water diarrhea (AWD).
- Oxfam partners are operating the single largest public health program in Somalia and providing clean water to tens of thousands displaced Somalis in camps outside Mogadishu.
- In Kenya, Oxfam has water, sanitation and hygiene programs reaching over 1.2 million people and is providing clean water to over 500,000 people in Dadaab, Kenya – the site of several refugee camps.
- In Ethiopia, where Oxfam is delivering clean water, rehabilitating water points and distributing hygiene kits, over 425,000 people have been reached.
Oxfam's humanitarian work has been ceaseless from the beginning of the crisis. Highlights from Oxfam's activities in the few first months of 2012, include:
- Through the distribution of non-food item kits such as jerry cans, body soap, and laundry soap, along with home visits for hygiene education, Oxfam has already reached 1,506 households and counting.
- In the Arero district 15,675 animals were given preventative treatments and sustenance. This ensures 791 rural households have long-term reliance on, what is often times, their sole form of livelihoods security.
- 1,104 households in the Yabello, Dhas, Wachille and Arero districts have been involved in cash-for-work programs that in the end benefit their entire communities through activities such as bush clearing, pond rehabilitation and traditional well restoration.
Somalia continues to be one of the world’s biggest humanitarian emergencies, with severe drought exacerbated by years of conflict. Insecurity makes Somalia one of the most difficult places to deliver aid. However, working with local Somali partner organisations, Oxfam has so far reached around 1.3 million people affected by the crisis.
- Therapeutic Feeding Centres: Oxfam partners operate 15 centres throughout Mogadishu that provide care for malnourished children and their mothers. These centres have treated 150,000 children in the past year, making it the single largest nutrition programme in South Central Somalia. Children under five years old are also vaccinated here, and pregnant mothers are provided with tetanus vaccines.
- Water and sanitation: Around 900,000 people in Somalia benefit from water systems built and maintained by Oxfam partners. In the Afgooye Corridor alone – one of the world’s most densely populated areas, with an estimated 415,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) crowded into a 15 km stretch of land – Oxfam partners have built water tanks and pumps, latrines, and carried out health campaigns to reduce the spread of disease. Oxfam also helps prevent acute watery diarrhoea and cholera at Banadir hospital, the only children’s hospital in Mogadishu.
- Cash transfers: Over 320,000 people in Somalia have benefited from cash distributions that help people to buy food, seeds and water.
- Support for farmers: Our partners have carried out technical training and provided seeds and tools to help farmers in the Lower Juba region to plant for the next harvest.
A recent Oxfam study found that more than half of displaced families in Mogadishu used mobile phones, and 75% of them were interested in using these to communicate information about health. Oxfam is piloting a project to convey public health information to insecure and hard to reach communities through a new mobile phone application. This is being used to mitigate the spread of cholera by reaching 100,000 displaced people in camps in Mogadishu.
- In Dadaab, where the population is over 85,000 displaced people, Oxfam is offering much needed assistance in water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructures. This ensures the prevention diseases such as cholera.
- 1,850,000 litres of water are delivered to the camps in Dadaab by pipelines and trucks.
- 139 communities in Wajir have received cash transfers, to jump start their markets and feed a healthy economy from which the community can grow.
- This is now the worst food crisis in the region of the 21st century, and the first time that famine has been declared in this region since at least 1992.
- The crisis is worst in the triangle of south and central Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya.
- Other areas are also badly affected, such as Somaliland and parts of central Ethiopia. Parts of Uganda and Djibouti have also been affected by the drought.
- Hundreds of thousands of livestock have died, harvests have declined dramatically and the price of staple foods reached record levels in many areas. Many people have lost their livelihoods and it will take time to rebuild.
- The price of staple foods are at record levels in many areas, while at the same time the value of livestock – people’s main assets in many of the worst affected areas – has plummeted and livestock markets have collapsed, so people have much less purchasing power than before.
Estimated number of people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance
Kenya: 4.3 million (in Northern Kenya)
Ethiopia: 4.8 million (in West / South Ethiopia)
Somalia: 4 million
(Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, December 16, 2011)
Oxfam installs a new water tank on the outskirts of an IFO camp at Dadaab.
4.3 million people in Kenya are affected by the crisis – mainly in the southern agricultural areas and the northern pastoralist regions, such as Turkana and Wajir where Oxfam is working.
4.8 million people in Ethiopia are affected by the crisis. Oxfam is working in drought-hit parts of Borena and Somali regions, distributing cash and improving water supplies.
The situation in Somalia this year is the worst in the past 10 years. 4 million people are currently affected, as the drought worsens across Somalia. People are fleeing into Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti from the Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle regions. Children arriving from Somalia in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya are exhausted, malnourished and severely dehydrated.
Recognizing the huge scale of need in East Africa and the need to work collectively to bring urgent assistance to disaster survivors, Oxfam Canada is proud to participate in the HUMANITARIAN COALITION.
By joining our efforts the members of the HUMANITARIAN COALITION are able to save more lives and reduce the costs of fundraising. To find out more click here.