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Horn of Africa famine a global failure UN and aid agencies admit

posted 19 Aug 2011, 06:57 by Mpelembe   [ updated 19 Aug 2011, 07:03 ]
The United Nations and other international and non-governmental organisations admitted collective failure for having neglected early meteorological signs that have resulted in the Horn of Africa's worst drought in decades and triggered a region-wide famine.

 NAIROBI, KENYA (AUGUST 19, 2011) REUTERS -  Representatives from the United Nations (UN), Oxfam and the Kenyan Red Cross Oon Friday (August 19) commemorated World Humanitarian Day by collectively admitting that the Horn of Africa famine, triggered by the region's worst drought in decades was avoidable if metereological signs were heeded and if action was taken in a timely manner.

John Ging, Director of Operations at the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) echoed panelists' sentiments, saying that the suffering of millions at the hands of the drought is a result of the international community's failure,

"This sad fact is again a reflection of our failure, collectively as a global community to actually give effect to the principles, values and standards that we have so long advocated, enshrined in so many declarations down to the decades and centuries. And yet today in 2011, we see the devastation that has been wrought on millions," said Ging.

Panelists said that metereoloigal predictions from as far back as twelve months ago confirmed that the Horn of Africa would suffer two failed rains this year and warned of severe drought accross the region.

The Kenya Red Cross institute however said that international and local donors including the Kenyan Government completely ignored the signs.

The UN, which is currently operating the world's largest refugee complex in eastern Kenya, where some 440,000 Somalis are seeking shelter, said that more long term mechanisms must be put into place to prevent the region from going from drought to famine.

"Early warning signs have been there, drought is a recurring phenomenon, and drought does not need to lead into excessive suffering by the people if all efforts are brought to bare on the onset of the drought, and we need to organise ourselves to respond very rapidly to the suffering," said the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in Kenya, Olivia Yambi.

Whilst hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid have already been deployed to feed and shelter famine victims, the Kenyan Red Cross bleakly warned that the drought will not ease in the near future.

According to the society, humanitarian assistance will need to continue well into the coming year.

"The longest part of this drought will be in September until the rains fall in October at least in this context, but we also know that the rains won't be sufficient, so there will be a little bit of breathing space in November and December, but then between January and March it will pick again, before the rains come big time in March, hopefully and if they are good rains. And even if they are good rains in March, people will plant with the rains and will only harvest around July, August next year so we are looking at assisting to people between now and that time of July next year, so we're in for some more months of long haul in this exercise," said Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General, Abbas Gullet.

The UN estimates that over 12 million people accross the region are now facing starvation, whilst Britain recently announced that roughly 400,000 Somali children alone were at risk of death.