Somalia: Local Crisis, Global Crisis

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Somalia: Local Crisis, Global Crisis

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jul 24, 2011 (110724)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The early warning systems worked. But the response to the famine in the Horn of Africa, which is particularly severe in Somalia, has still been too little and too late, as is the common pattern for such crises. Now the media, as well as the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and diaspora Africans from the affected countries, are mobilizing to respond more massively. That response is both necessary and urgent. But it is also essential to reflect on the system-wide causes and the inadequacy of global institutions to respond.

In terms of the immediate response, the United Nations and private non-governmental organizations need money now. The web address for donations to UNICEF is at; for UNHCR see; Oxfam's appeal is at

Among the many efforts by the Somali diaspora in particular, one noteworthy project is Survival Backpacks for Somali Refugees in Kenya, a project by Somali filmmakers in Nairobi to support refugees making their way from inside Somalia to camps in Kenya. The project urgently needs support to meet their modest goal of $25,000 (

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains (1) a note on the Survival Backpacks project, (2) excerpts from the latest summary of the current status of the Drought in the Horn of Africa, from the UN's Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and (3) an essay by Paul Rogers of OpenDemocracy with a useful overview on the global implications of this latest food crisis.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, and available on the web at, focuses on the conditions in the massive Dadaab refugee camp, and includes excerpts from a December 2010 report by Amnesty International

For a longer background paper, just released this week, see Famine in Somalia: What Needs to Be Done (both immediate response and long-term analysis; includes a 16-page Briefing Note on "East Africa Food Crisis: Poor rains, poor response") / direct URL:

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalia, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Survival Backpacks for Somali Refugees in Kenya / /


Media attention is focusing on Somali refugees arriving at Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Thousands of people, mostly women and children have walked for days, even weeks and arrive at Dadaab with nothing. Somali filmmakers, working in Dadaab for the past two years, will supply Survival Backpacks for immediate interim assistance to recentlyarrived refugees. As members of the Somali community, they are well qualified to assist. Hot Sun Foundation is providing logistical and documentation support. What is the issue, problem, or challenge?

Somalis are fleeing the worst drought in 60 years. Thousands arrive daily at Dadaab refugee camp Kenya, overwhelming available resources. The Somalis, mainly women and children, have walked for days, even weeks, and arrive with nothing. International aid is on its way, but with over 1500 people arriving daily at Dadaab, refugees must wait for long periods to receive help. They need immediate interim assistance, including blankets, canteens for water and shoes to complement food and water aid.

How will this project solve this problem?

Somali filmmaker, Ahmed Farah, who has documented the life of Somali refugees for several years, with Abdisalaan Aato and Deeq Afrika is taking Survival Backpacks to Dadaab. The Survival Backpacks include a blanket: for temporary shelter, a water flask: few have containers for water, and shoes: most are barefoot (shoes destroyed after walking for days). They will report on the situation on video and photos to show you the impact of your assistance. Multiple trips will be made as required.

Potential Long Term Impact

Survival Backpacks will provide needed basics for Somali refugees who arrive at Dadaab with nothing. Even more powerful will be the effect of Survival Backpacks being distributed by Somali filmmakers, who have been working with refugees at Dadaab. Somalis will have a chance to tell their stories about what is happening both in Somalia and at Dadaab on video and through photos, giving all of us a unique opportunity to learn what is happening and see the impact of our assistance.

Project Message

Many international news agencies have been reporting on Dadaab Refugee camp but our plan is to go further inside and report back to the world. We will ensure your support reaches people in need.

- Ahmed Farah, Filmmaker and Project Co-Coordinator


Horn of Africa Drought Crisis

Situation Report No. 5

21 July 2011

This report is produced by OCHA in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It is issued by OCHA Eastern Africa. It covers the period from 15 to 21 July 2011. The next report will be issued on or around 26 July.

[Excerpts. This full report and other updates on the drought in the Horn of Africa are also available on ReliefWeb at]

I. Highlights / Key Priorities

  • On 20 July, the United Nations declared a state of famine in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of southern Somalia. Famine may also spread to other southern regions in the coming two months, if urgent interventions are not undertaken. Across the country, nearly half of the Somali population - 3.7 million people - is now in crisis. An estimated 2.8 million people of those are in the south.
  • Following Al-Shabaab's announcement in early July to allow humanitarian access to areas under its control in southern Somalia, agencies have been making initial contacts and increasing response where programmes were already underway.
  • The Kenyan Prime Minister on 14 July announced the government's intention to allow UNHCR and partners to put refugees into the Ifo II site in Dadaab. The actual relocation of refugees to the new site has however not begun and preparations have begun at other sites that have could accommodate the overflow but which do not have the structures and facilities of Ifo II.
  • The Kenyan Cabinet in response to the food insecurity situation in the country authorized an expenditure of 9 billion shillings (US$100m) to purchase emergency food supplies for affected Kenyans, and further stipulated conditions for the importation, by millers only, of grain from Genetically Modified sources.
  • The third refugee camp in Ethiopia which opened at the end of June is already full; work has started on a fourth camp to hold up to 40,000 people.
  • Over US$1.1billion has so far been committed to the response, but a shortfall of $850m remains, this before additional costs of expanding the Somalia operation.

II. Regional Situation Overview

Humanitarian Situation

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, announced on 20 July that famine conditions have emerged in two regions in southern Somalia, namely Lower Shabelle and southern Bakool. The conditions in both regions were classified as famine based on evidence that access to food, malnutrition and mortality rates surpass the respective famine thresholds. Based on definition by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), famine is declared when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 per cent; more than two people per 10,000 die per day; and when people are not able to access food and other basic necessities. Other indicators of a very serious situation in these areas include large scale displacement and disease outbreaks.

The most affected areas of Somalia are in the south, particularly the regions of Lower Shabelle, Middle and Lower Juba, Bay, Bakool, Benadir, Gedo and Hiraan. An estimated 310,000 children in these regions are acutely malnourished. Specifically, the acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle, with reports of peaks of 50 per cent in certain parts of the region. In addition, increased under-five mortality rates have been recorded, with more than six deaths per 10,000 per day in some areas, largely due to causes related to malnutrition. Access to food and other basic necessities remains a challenge in most parts of southern Somalia.

Also on 20 July, at the launch of the Mid-Year Review of the Humanitarian Appeals for 2011, United Nations UnderSecretary -General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) Valerie Amos confirmed that discussions over humanitarian access in Somalia were ongoing, with agencies making efforts to reach the affected people where they were, and not just in displaced camps.

The declaration of famine was only for some parts of Somalia. However, parts of neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti are suffering from severe food insecurity, also as a result of the drought. More than 11.5 million people are in need of lifesaving assistance throughout the Horn of Africa region (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia).

Refugee influxes from Somalia into Kenya and Ethiopia continued this week, with an exodus averaging 3,500 people a day arriving in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya that are also suffering from the impacts of the current drought. UNHCR reports that more than 20,000 Somalis await registration at the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. New arrivals are receiving food, health and other services while they await registration. Most of the newly-registered refugees in Kenya are currently living on the outskirts of the congested camps in Dadaab. The three existing camp structures in Dadaab have exceeded their original capacity, and are now hosting more than 383,000 refugees, four times the number originally planned for.

Upon visiting the camps, the Kenyan Prime Minister announced on 14 July the government's intention to allow UNHCR and partners to settle refugees and offer them with assistance on the extended land at Dadaab refugee complex. The Kenyan government instructed that only temporary tented shelter facilities should be provided in the area. Partners in Dadaab are now waiting for formal government authorization to begin the relocation of refugees. This will ease pressure on shelter, water and sanitation facilities and further reduce tensions with host communities, who are also severely affected by the drought conditions. The relocation will also allow agencies to provide services in a more structured and coordinated manner.

In Ethiopia, the Kobe refugee camp, which opened at the Somalia-Ethiopia border at the end of June, is already full. Two other camps previously established - Bokolomanyo (established in 2009) and Melkadida (2010) have also exceeded their planned capacity. The government, UNHCR and other humanitarian partners are now working to finalize construction of a fourth camp, Hilowen, which will be able to host up to 40,000 people. Planning for a fifth camp, Bora-Amino, which would have a capacity of 60,000 to 80,000, is also underway. In recent days, the number of new arrivals from Somalia at the registration site on the Ethiopia-Somalia border has tapered off from the peak of 2,000 new arrivals per day previously reported, reducing to some 500 to 600 per day. This has enabled ARRA and UNHCR to clear the backlog of people awaiting registration. However, more than 8,000 people are currently at the transit site in Dolo Ado, awaiting transfer to the camps.


III. Country Situation Overview


In Ethiopia, 4.57 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. The impact of the La Niña-induced drought is becoming increasingly acute across the lowlands of southern and southeastern Ethiopia, with most of the droughtaffected areas classified as experiencing 'humanitarian emergency' conditions, according to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-Net) and WFP.


Refugees: More than 112,000 refugees from Somalia are currently in the Dollo Ado area (Somali region) of Ethiopia. As the three existing refugee camps of Bokolomanyo, Melkadida and Kobe are at or over maximum capacity, preparation of a fourth camp at Hilowen is being finalized, and planning for a fifth camp, at Bora-Amino, is underway. ...


Drought conditions in Kenya's northern and north-eastern districts have deteriorated further after the poor performance of the March-June long rains. This has deepened food insecurity, water shortages and increased the risk of disease outbreaks. There are currently 2.4 million people needing food aid assistance, and the numbers are expected to increase in the next month. A mid-season Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) assessment conducted in May 2011 indicates that up to 3.5 million people may require food aid assistance in coming months. ...


Across the country, nearly half of the Somali population - 3.7 million people - is in need of assistance. Among these, 3.2 million people require immediate, lifesaving assistance. An estimated 2.8 million of these are in the south. The scale and severity of the crisis in Somalia makes this the most serious food insecurity situation in the world since the 1992 famine in the region. ...

According to WFP, the number of reachable beneficiaries in Somalia in July 2011 is 1.5 million. This figure excludes people in need in parts of south Somalia where they have had no access since January 2010. In June, WFP delivered 2,681 metric tons of mixed food commodities reaching 483,265 people (214,000 in
south-central, including 167,000 in Mogadishu, 54,000 in Puntland and 48,000 in Somaliland). In terms of gaps, WFP has reported a requirement of 77,660 metric tons of food between July and December 2011, worth US$ 99.4 million. WFP announced a shortfall of 24,735 metric tons worth US$ 41.8 million representing a 42 percent funding shortfall.

In addition, WFP has been accessing all 16 districts of Mogadishu through wet feeding, reaching more than 85,000 people on a daily basis, and has targeted supplementary feeding programmes in various parts of the city. WFP is planning interventions in the border areas of Gedo and the Afgooye Corridor; an increase of operations in Mogadishu and central Somalia. UNHCR has distributed assistance packages reaching over 63,000 people in southern Somalia and will distribute packages reaching 126,000 people in the coming days. The UN and partners are also responding in districts along the border with Kenya and Ethiopia border, where access is improving.



The Government of Djibouti held an event to launch the revised drought appeal for $39m on 18 July. The appeal is about 42% funded. The revision makes reference to 26,600 people estimated to be in need in urban areas for the first time. The government is allocating at least US$1m from its own resources to the response.


VI. Contacts

Ben Parker, interim Head of Office, OCHA Eastern Africa; Mobile: +254 733 860082; email:

Gabriella Waaijman, OCHA Eastern Africa,. Tel +254 20 762 2148/2166 (o); Mobile: +254 732 600 012; email:

Truphosa Anjichi-Kodumbe, Humanitarian Reporting Officer, OCHA Eastern Africa; Tel: +254 20 762 2076 (o); Mobile: +254 732 500 018/+254 722 839 182; email:

To be added or deleted from the OCHA Eastern Africa mailing list, please e-mail: or

A world in hunger: east Africa and beyond

Paul Rogers, 21st July 2011

[Text only. For the original article including a wide range of links to sources, see -africa-and-beyond / direct URL:]

The severe drought across much of east Africa is a human emergency that requires urgent attention. It also signals a global crisis: the convergence of inequality, food insecurity and climate change.

[Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 28 September 2001. ]

A drought across much of east Africa in mid-2011 is causing intense distress among vulnerable populations, many of them already pressed by poverty and insecurity. The range of the affected areas is extensive: the two districts in Somalia that are now designated as famine-zones are but the most extreme parts of a much wider disaster that stretches from Somalia across Ethiopia into northern Kenya, and as far west as Sudan and even the Karamoja district in northeast Uganda.

The numbers put at risk in this, the worst drought in the region since the 1950s, are enormous. At least 11 million people are touched by the disaster. In the Turkana district of northern Kenya, 385,000 children (among a total population of about 850,000) are suffering from acute malnutrition (see Miriam Gathigah, "East Africa: Millions Stare Death in the Face Amidst Ravaging Drought", TerraViva / IPS, 18 July 2011). In Somalia, the conflict between the Islamist Shabaab movement and the nominal government makes conditions even more perilous for those affected.

The world's largest refugee camp, at Dadaab in northern Kenya, offers a stark illustration of the consequences of the drought. The population of Dadaab, which was designed to cope with 90,000 people, has increased in recent months to 380,000 - and 1,300 more are arriving daily (see Denis Foynes, "Eleven Million at Risk in Horn of Africa", TerraViva / IPS, 19 July 2011).

The lessons of crisis

But just as striking is that this is part of a recurring phenomenon. Major warning-signs of malnutrition and famine were already visible in April 2008; among them were climatic factors, steep oil-price increases, increased demand for meat diets by richer communities, and the diversion of land to grow biofuel crops (see "The world's food insecurity", 24 April 2008).

What made these ingredients more perilous was the way that (as is so often the case) they acted synergistically. The clearest example of this was the sustained world food crisis of 1973-74, when (at its peak) some 40 million people in thirty countries were at risk. The overall predicament derived from a combination of two long-term and five more immediate factors.

The long-term issues were the relative neglect of rural development since the 1950s, and the fact that many countries were just starting to make the demographic transition (meaning that they still had 40% or more of their population under the age of 14). These were intensified by the short-term problems: the coincidence of poor weather conditions (including the seven-year drought in the Sahel and floods in south Asia), a huge increase in oil and fertiliser prices, increased demand for meat in northern countries, the failure of the green revolution to deliver sufficiently robust new crop varieties, and rampant commodity-market speculation that also forced up prices.

In the event the crisis of 1973-74 did not tip into real disaster. A transnational famine was avoided, partly because a few states (notably the newly wealthy middle-east oil-producers) belatedly provided enough aid. But the most significant aspect was that throughout, the world's grain reserves were substantial; they did fall to around half of the usual stocks, but even at the peak of the crisis still averaged around 100 days of supply. The problem the crisis revealed was that far too many people could not grow enough of their own food and could not afford the inflated prices in local or national markets. At the heart of the emergency were issues of poverty and economic marginalisation.

The lessons of a near-catastrophe were never learned. The then United Nations plan for a major increase in tropical agricultural research and development was costed at the equivalent of 2% of world military expenditure per year, yet barely a third of the money needed was actually raised.

There have since been nearly four decades of "development", with contrasting outcomes: the world has grown very much richer yet the great bulk of the new wealth has benefited the richest 1.5 billion in a global population that the United Nations estimates will reach 7 billion in October 2011. A far wealthier world is more divided, and contains nearly twice as many malnourished people, as was the case in the early 1970s. These facts alone are a damning criticism of the way the world economic system has evolved, and in particular of the neglect of food security for tens of millions of poor and vulnerable people.

The climate factor

What makes this situation even more pressing is that it is now reinforced by the existing and likely impacts of climate change (see "The climate peril: a race against time", 13 November 2009).

There is abundant evidence that the rate of temperature increase in coming decades will be faster over the tropical and sub-tropical land-masses - as much as three times the worldwide average in many such regions. The early effects will include a marked decline in what Lester Brown has called the "reservoirs in the sky": the glaciated regions of the high Andes and the far greater water-stores locked up in the Himalaya and the Karakoram (sometimes termed "the third pole") (see Lester R Brown, "Rising temperatures melting away global food security", TerraViva / IPS, 6 July 2011).

The dry coastal areas of Peru and other parts of western south America depend on the Andean glaciers. But the value of the south Asian glaciers is hugely greater since they feed the Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra and other river systems on which hundreds of millions of people depend for food. When the "reservoirs" shrivel and temperatures rise, the result is increased heat- and water-stress in crops, causing yields to fall and thus food shortages. Such shortages already exist, as the east African crisis shows; on present trends they will become far worse in the coming decades (see "A century on the edge: 1945-2045", 29 December 2008).

A degree of adaptation is in principle possible, not least through key technological and political changes : improving water conservation and the breeding of drought-resistant crops, and reforming the world economy to ensure far more equity and economic emancipation (see Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom [Oxford University Press, 1999]). These innovations alone would be near-revolutionary - but still not enough to solve the problems . This requires bringing climate change under control via a "great transition" to ultra-low carbon economies.

The current crisis in east Africa requires immediate coordinated action to alleviate the widespread suffering . It is also a powerful reminder of the far larger efforts needed here and elsewhere, which are amplified by the preceding decades of neglect and waste. The ability to achieve the great transition - with all it entails in terms of sustainable livelihoods and social organisation - will determine whether the planet's next generations are guaranteed the food and other resources to enable them to survive and build fulfilled lives.

Additional references

New Economics Foundation - The Great Transition

Sustainable Security

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)

International Food Policy Research Institute

International Fund for Agricultural Development

The Hunger Project

Famine Early Warning Systems Network

United Nations - Global Food Security Crisis

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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