The region of East Africa is known for its severe, harsh conditions that frequently subject inhabitants to long droughts; often resulting in food insecurity and most severe cases, famine. Despite a focus on East Africa, it is important to note that there is a multitude of countries outside the region that fall victim to scarcity as well. An exploration of the ongoing conditions being experienced and efforts deemed necessary to relieve the situations focus on the essential services provided by relief organizations and the definite need for intergovernmental initiatives.
In February 2017, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of South Sudan. Additionally, reports warn that “almost 5 million people urgently need food, agriculture and nutrition assistance.” The result of the famine can be blamed on the devastating weather conditions, but the more shocking details are that of the “man-made” aspects of the crisis. Competing armed groups have enforced discriminatory practices, based on ethnicity, which is intended to restrict or eliminate the flow of material support entering the region. The “man-made” aspects are to be the greatest contributor to the extent of the crisis. United Nations (UN) describes the destruction of crops and blockade of food supplies as part of those man-made efforts to restrict the flow of goods. With the effects of food insecurity being for over six months, the end of June 2017 is expected to force inhabitants to rely on one meal a day. The United Nations Children’s Fund reports 8 million people in need of assistance, 4.3 of those people are identified as children. Limited funds place their projection of services to reach a mere 2.4 million children, 3.3 million people overall.
The latest drought in Ethiopia highlights the dire conditions of which affect millions of people.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP,), the drought exposes an estimated eight million people to the dependency of external aid programs. Much of the people suffering from the drought are already struggling as the internally displaced. Aid agencies estimated that Ethiopia would run out emergency food supplies by the end of June 2017. The consequences of the disruption of threatening the development of a wide range of issues varying from malnutrition to famine.
Despite the estimations made by the WFP, Ethiopian officials report that a much smaller number of people are affected by the ongoing conditions. There is a discrepancy of approximately six million inhabitants that the government is saying as not being affecting affected by the drought, compared to estimations on behalf of WFP. Additionally, the Ethiopian government attempts to quell the fears of humanitarians through their assurance of the participation of donors and designated government funds. The United Nations Children’s Fund reports 9.2 million people in need of assistance; 4.8 million of those people are identified as children. Funds will allow the servicing of 4 million people, with half of those funds targeted toward children.
Kenya has been severely impacted by the occurrence of mild, rainy seasons that fail to produce sufficient byproducts. The inevitable consequences of imperfect rainy seasons are soaring food prices that heighten domestic inflation, adverse health effects like malnutrition, and a struggling tourism industry. The widespread suffering in the wake of the drought is being exploited in the ongoing election process, with politicians using the situation and campaign promises to gain support. Much like Sudan, analyses of the shortage is attributed to factors like widespread violence due motivated by ethnic and political tensions. The drought has left 30 people dead, as reported in March 2017. The UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says that more than 2.6 million Kenyans are severely food insecure as of late May 2017. A totaling amount of 4 million people is reported as needing assistance by the UN’s Children’s Fund, 1.72 million of those people identified as children. 1 million people are estimated to be serviced by the end of the year, with 780,000 of those people are expected to be children.
Threats of U.S. budget cuts about foreign aid directly affect countries suffering from the drought and other varying debilitating factors. The withdrawal of foreign aid, as proposed by President Trump, ignite fears due to America’s history as the top donor to the United Nations, mainly benefitting African countries. 2016 reports cite the United States as $2 billion contributors to the World Food Programme of the United Nations. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is spearheading additional initiatives. 57 member states participate in this organization, making it the largest inter-governmental organization behind the United Nations. The OIC is currently assessing the situation in Ethiopia and plans to visit Kenya, as well as other East African countries.
The UNOCHA estimates 12.8 million people are experiencing food insecurity within the region.
Food security affects the livelihood of the inhabitants of the area, as it is directly related to nutrition and health of the people. Efforts to contain, improve and prevent the severity of these circumstances must be placed at the forefront of the international agenda.
Primary natural resources, as well as entire industries, have been wiped out. Agro-pastoral communities and farming industries have been depleted. Livestock is unable to provide a safe and viable option for residents of the area, affecting trade overall.
It’s crucial that the efforts/funds made available provide relief for the current crisis but provide a basis for future endeavors. It will be the responsibility of international entities to provide help beyond the ongoing situation, by offering countries with the necessary tools for successful state-building. Emphasis on more than a typical single-issue initiative can set a precedent that will enable independence on behalf of formerly dependent countries, lessening the burden of international institutions and contributing to global security.
Laura Zamora is a contributor at Politicsay. Laura majored in International Affairs and earned a certificate in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Laura focuses on Human Rights violations and other social issues.