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Famine In East Africa Worsening

The famine in East Africa is rapidly getting worse:

Jeffrey Gettleman via U.N. Says Famine Is Widening in Somalia

United Nations announced Monday that Somalia’s famine had spread to a sixth area within the country, with officials warning that 750,000 people could die in the next few months unless aid efforts were scaled up.

A combination of drought, war, restrictions on aid groups and years of chaos have pushed four million Somalis — more than half the population — into “crisis,” according to the United Nations. Agricultural production is just a quarter of what it normally is, and food prices continue to soar.

“We can’t underestimate the scale of the crisis,” said Mark Bowden, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. “Southern Somalia is the epicenter of the famine area in the Horn of Africa. It’s the source of most of the refugees, and we need to refocus our efforts.”

The specifics are the worst drought ever, leading to the worst crop yields in 17 years:

FSNAU, Famine spreads into Bay Region - 750,000 people face imminent starvation

The current crisis in southern Somalia is driven by a combination of factors. The total failure of the October-December 2010 Deyr rains (secondary season) and the poor performance of the April-June 2011 Gu 2011 rains (primary season) have resulted in the worst annual crop production in 17 years, reduced labor demand, below-average livestock prices, and excess animal mortality. The decline in maize and sorghum availability has subsequently pushed local cereal prices to record levels and, in combination with reduced livestock prices and wages, substantially reduced household purchasing power in all livelihood zones. Large-scale displacement and significant limitations on humanitarian access have further exacerbated the negative food access and health outcomes.

Based on the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) scale, version 1.1, an area is classified as in Famine when at least 20 percent of the population faces extreme food deficits, global acute malnutrition (GAM) exceeds 30 percent, and the death rate exceeds 2/10,000/day for the entire population. In regard to the current situation:

  • Local cereal prices across the south are far above average, more than triple 2010 prices in some areas. These high prices have eroded the value of wages and livestock and, combined with reduced crop production, resulted in substantial food deficits among poor and lower middle households, especially in marginal cropping areas.
  • During July and August, FSNAU conducted 34 representative nutrition and mortality surveys across southern Somalia, including 30 among local populations and four among internally displaced populations. Results from 24 surveys are available. Based on the most recent data available for each region, the average GAM prevalence was 36.4 percent and the average severe acute malnutrition (SAM) prevalence was 15.8 percent. The highest recorded level of acute malnutrition is in Bay, where the GAM prevalence is 58.3 percent. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has verified these findings.
  • Population-wide death rates are above the alert level (1/10,000/day) across all areas of the south, above the Famine threshold (2/10,000/day) in the Bay, Bakool and Middle Shabelle (Balcad and Cadale) agropastoral livelihood zones, and more than double the Famine threshold in Lower Shabelle and among IDPs in the Afgoye corridor and Mogadishu. Tens of thousands of people have died in the past three months. Under-5 death rates are higher than 4/10,000/day in all areas of the south except Juba pastoral. Under-5 death rates meet or exceed 13/10,000/day (equivalent to 10 percent of children under five dying every 11 weeks) in riverine and agropastoral areas of Lower Shabelle and among Afgoye and Mogadishu IDPs.
  • Emergency levels of malnutrition and mortality persist in cross border refugee camps. Conditions are especially dire in the new camps in southern Ethiopia, where acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent and mortality has likely surpassed 2/10,000/day, despite adequate stocks of food aid.

The combination of factors leads me to believe that we’ll see millions dying in the Horn of Africa in the next year, since the climate continues in drought conditions, and the outside world seems uninterested in this new, but slow-moving, disaster.

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