Day One of 48forEastAfrica: Raising awareness, funds for Horn of Africa famine relief

• August 6, 2011
Refugees wait to receive aid items in Dadaab, Kenya | Photo Credit: Oxfam International

Refugees wait to receive aid items in Dadaab, Kenya | Photo Credit: Oxfam International

TckTckTck is proud to participate in a 48-hour fundraiser with prominent environmental websites and several of our partner organizations to benefit the 12 million people facing famine and starvation in the Eastern Horn of Africa.

For weeks we have followed the growing crisis in Eastern Africa with sadness and fear. As of this week, more than half of Somalia’s population is facing a humanitarian crisis – almost 3.7 million people. Across the region, more than 2 million children under five are malnourished, with nearly a quarter of those suffering from severe malnourishment. The agonizing truth is one we wish we could ignore: with no significant rainfall expected until the end of the year, this crisis is going to get worse before it gets better.

Daily Kos: Climate change is increasing drought and hunger in East Africa

NASA imagery shows that drought has caused a catastrophic loss of vegetation across east and central Africa

NASA imagery shows that drought has caused a catastrophic loss of vegetation across east and central Africa

Drought has plunged East Africa into the worst food security crisis Africa has faced in 20 years. More than 11.5 million people are currently in need of food aid in Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The number is projected to rise, and this image illustrates why.

The image shows plant growth during the growing season for the crop normally harvested in June and July. The image was made with observations from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on the NOAA-18 POES satellite, which records the amount of light plants in a broad region absorb during photosynthesis. Where there were more leafy photosynthesizing plants than average, the image is green. Brown indicates that plants were sparser or growing less than average. Broad swaths of East Africa are brown, pointing to poor plant growth during the growing season.

The crop grown during this period is typically planted in March or April, when the first rains of the year fall. In 2011, the rains were late, falling in late April and May, and inadequate. The crops were planted late and are only now being harvested. In southern Somalia, currently the most severely impacted region, the harvest is expected to be 50 percent below average, says the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). Pastures are also sparse, putting stress on livestock.

The poor harvest and lack of pasture in July compounds existing food security problems. The previous crop, harvested early in the year, was also poor. In Somalia, the harvest was less than 20 percent of the average harvest, and people began to run short on food in April. Another bad harvest reduces food availability even more, which means that food prices will likely rise more in the coming months.

On July 20, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of southern Somalia, where 2.8 million people are in need of life-saving assistance. Surrounding regions in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti are in a food crisis or food emergency. The United Nations declares a famine only when “at least 20 per cent of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope; acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 per cent; and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.”

Read more on their blog.

Oxfam: Special video report from Wajir, Kenya

Famine is almost always manmade. It is a disaster that requires a series of unfortunate events, but the root cause is usually a failure in the politics of resource distribution. Water, food, infrastructure: where there exists will, it is possible to avert famine. The Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought, but a perfect storm of drought, long term neglect, and a host of political failures becomes an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Somalia today. Watch a video from our partners at Oxfam International on the ground in Wajir, Kenya:

How you can help

While one billion dollars in aid has already been promised to the region, it is only half of what is required to truly resolve the crisis. Many TckTckTck partners including Oxfam International, Care International and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are working in Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia to help provide food, aid and support to famine victims. If you are able, we hope you can support them with a donation. If you are not, we hope you’ll share their stories from the region and their appeal for help with your friends, family and networks.

Comments (1)

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  1. I just wanted to say thanks for supporting this iniative – what a great idea. I work for Oxfam supporting the emergency response in Ethiopia and I’ve also written my own piece for the event – a personal account going from the first signs through to response.

    As someone who’s confronted on a daily basis with the extent of people’s needs and can equally see the difference funding makes, thanks again for supporting this 🙂


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