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Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Blog Team
Jul 25, 2011

Most of us in America may just be hearing about the mounting crisis in Somalia and the surrounding nations in what is commonly called the “Horn of Africa.” Images of malnourished children and lines of refugees have only recently reached our television screens after the United Nations officially declared a famine in two regions of Somalia last Wednesday.

Although the state of Africa as a whole has often been presupposed as perpetually unstable from several vantage points, the current situation in Somalia has not compared with any other humanitarian crisis in that region for the past 20 years.

According to the most recent reports from the U.N., over 11 million people in the Horn are in desperate need of food, water, and medical care.

No embellishments are needed to depict the urgency of the situation, as reports on the ground indicate that conditions are dire indeed. To further exacerbate the crisis, al-Qaeda-linked insurgents, al-Shabaab, have denied access to humanitarian aid groups in many areas of Somalia, save a few, including the U.N. These constraints have been the cause of a massive exodus of Somali refugees into neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia, and other nations.

Thousands are traveling unbelievable distances to reach the borders of these neighboring countries with refugee camps, which are already facing massive overcrowding, a disparity of resources, and the ongoing threat of disease. Suffering from the brink of starvation, young children cling tightly to their mothers, whom, lacking adequate nutrition themselves, have stopped producing breast milk and are becoming increasingly desperate. Overcrowding and a lack of sanitation facilities have also made women more vulnerable to sexual violence within these refugee camps. Somalia is already considered one of the top five worst places in the world for women.

“I have never seen anything like it. Many mothers have lost three or four children. It’s a tragedy out here.” –Austin Kennan, regional director for the Horn of Africa for Concern Worldwide

The magnitude of the crisis can best be seen in the U.N.’s official declaration of famine in the region, which is a term only reserved for the most severe of conditions. The purpose of this reluctance is to summon a strategic and timely international response. In order for famine to be declared, the following criteria must be met:

  • At least 20% of the population must be consuming less than 2100 kilocalories a day (the daily intake needed for a normal, healthy person to survive)
  • 30% of children must be suffering from acute malnutrition
  • Two adults or four children out of every 10,000 people must be dying of hunger each day

Considering these factors, it is important to remember that there is no singular cause behind famine. While severe and widespread drought are significant contributors, the turmoil caused by civil war, sky-rocketing staple food prices, and massive unemployment have all played their respective parts in the current crisis in Somalia.

In response to the crisis, World Help is dedicated to playing a strategic role in alleviating some of the burden of this emergency by providing humanitarian resources to our partners on the ground in neighboring Kenya. As we speak, two containers filled with 83,000 pounds of life-saving supplies are being prepared to ship. The 40-foot containers include canned salmon, wheat, corn, and nutrition-packed soup mix. These shipments will be distributed among those in the areas with the greatest needs, including the slum areas of Kibera where World Help already supports a program for street children.

Please join us in praying for the millions of people affected by this crisis. We know we serve a compassionate and powerful God. Knowing this . . . there is always hope. In the meantime, World Help is committed to doing everything in our power to provide our partners in the area with the resources they need to save lives.

As always, thank you for your continued support.

If you would like to make a charitable donation toward the cost of these containers, please click here.


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