Horn of Africa Faces Starvation

  • Published on September 21st, 2009

Somali roadside wreckage

Recently the Food and Agriculture organisation (FAO) of the UN reported that millions more people may find themselves facing long term hunger and even starvation, in east Africa.

Climate change affects Africa

El Nino is blamed for changing rainfall patterns, and that, combined with inadequate harvests and increasing conflict has led to a drop in cereal production already affecting Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. This could lead to an increase in the number of people relying on food aid.

Already more than 20 million people are receiving food assistance in the Horn of Africa region and their numbers are only likely to increase further towards the end of the year as El Nino drives heavy rains across the region, leading to mudslides on tree-denuded hillsides and the destruction of crops close to harvest time. The same rains often destroy roads and other infrastructure required to bring food aid and medicine into the region and can kill livestock or cause epidemic diseases in animals or human populations, all of which add to the complexity of managing food security in a region where conflict is endemic and border raids and ‘tribal’ disagreements are a standard response to poverty.

Horn of Africa countries badly hit

The worst hit country at present is Somalia, where the FAO claims that around half the population already need some form of aid; either food or medical supplies or both. Ethiopia is also expected to tip into reliance on emergency aid, as the second harvest of the year has failed and that means that food aid reliance could rise from 1.3 million to over six million people.

Kenya and Uganda are both expecting poor harvests, and Uganda has an even more disastrous prognosis as the ongoing unrest between government forces and rebels has forced people off their land or led them to stay barricaded in their compounds, resulting in less cultivation and a probably halving of the harvest of staple food crops. The current violence has left more than a million people in Uganda struggling with food security and the number is expected to rise steadily throughout the next twelve months, according to FAO experts.

Somali roadside wreckage courtesy of Carl Montgomery at Flickr under a creative commons licence

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