Relief_Grant_VietnamThe U.S. government will help Vietnam respond to severe drought and saltwater intrusion by providing a disaster relief grant, USAID announced on April 8. The natural disaster has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam’s southern provinces and Central Highlands.

U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius declared the situation as a disaster on March 25, prompting the U.S. to provide assistance to Vietnam through the Vietnam Red Cross. Assistance efforts will continue with the announcement of this relief grant.

Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is the country’s largest rice, fruit and fisheries producer. However, the current drought and saltwater intrusion the delta is facing is the worst in 90 years. Since the end of 2015, this natural disaster has also impacted all provinces in the Southern Central and Central highland regions, as 39 provinces have requested support from central government. Roughly 1.75 million people have been affected.

According to a report from Vietnam’s National Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control, a large number of households are experiencing water shortage from the drought. Schools, health care stations, hotels and factories are also experiencing water shortages.

“With this assistance, VNCR will provide safe drinking water and water storage containers to those most affected and will carry out promotional activities to enhance the awareness of sanitation and hygiene,” Consul General Rena Bitter said, according to a USAID article.

USAID-supported disaster relief efforts directly support and are closely coordinated with the Government of Vietnam’s relief efforts. USAID has also provided the country approximately $12 million in disaster relief response, preparedness and risk reduction assistance since 2002.

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr

Approximately 300 people have died in the past month as a result of the deadly drought and heat wave in India. A large portion of the nation is undergoing extreme droughts and record-breaking temperatures, with the two hottest months of the year yet to ensue.

India is experiencing one of the worst water crisis it has had in years. A quarter of the population currently suffers from drought due to the failure of the past two monsoons to provide adequate water supply.

Armed guards now protect any water available from desperate farmers who constantly attempt to steal the valuable resource. As Purshotam Sirohi states, “water is more precious than gold in this area.”

Last month, authorities in India had to prohibit large gatherings at water collection sites in order to dispel the water riots. Gates were placed outside of water tankers and the police continually deal with skirmishes over the water supply.

For the past six to eight months, the poorer population has waited outside of water tankers overnight to fill up containers of water. After the water sites began to dry up, this extended to the rest of India as well.

To prevent the situation from worsening, authorities have begun to haul in trucks packed with water to provide for the citizens. However, this cannot alleviate the effect that the drought has on many citizens’ livelihood.

The farmers throughout India rely on the yearly monsoons to produce enough water to satisfy their crops, since the country lacks a highly functional irrigation system. Water shortages for the past two years have caused many farmers’ crops to dry up and the land to become far less arable for future seasons.

The drought and heat wave in India have eliminated many of the key resources that the country is largely dependent on. Those who live in the poorer areas of rural India have taken a significant hit from the rising temperatures and water crisis which has worsened the pre-existing social and economic conditions that these citizens suffer from.

A sizable portion of India’s population of poor rural workers is now migrating toward cities and populated towns to find water and to make up for their financial losses. Although many are able to find work in cities, migration leaves a lack of resources flowing from the rural areas which has a negative impact on the everyday functioning of the country.

However, this drought and heat wave in India has done more than eradicate the crops. The temperatures of over 113 degrees Fahrenheit have caused deaths across the nation. Schools have been forced to close as a result of dangerous conditions and outdoor activities have been temporarily stopped.

Though the citizens have felt the consequences of the extreme heat wave, the hottest months of May and June are still to ensue. There is hope on the horizon, though, as experts in India claim that the coming rainy season is expected to be significantly greater than those in the past.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Youtube


From July to September of this year there’s been just one day of rain per month where “it should have been raining every other day,” Mr. Yasin, a local farmer in Ethiopia, told reporter Jacy Fortin of NY Times. His crops have since failed as this year’s drought in Ethiopia erodes away his land and his stability.

Reportedly caused by this year’s potent El Niño, the drought is beginning to take its toll on this country where 80 percent of the population works in agricultural productivity. Because of this, 40 percent of the country’s economic output is from the agriculture, which makes for a bad mix.

This drought is estimated to put 8.2 million people in need of food assistance; that nearly doubles the count before the drought began which was 4.55 million.

This year, however, is not the first time this country has faced a massive drought; in 2002, the GDP of Ethiopia dropped 2.2 percent as a result of widespread crop failure from a drought. Once before then the country had fallen to drought since there was a drastic famine that spurred massive aid to the area as a result.

Ethiopia’s government plans to outsmart the drought this year and has come up with ingenious precautions and early action initiatives to supplement its food aid assistance. In doing so, it hopes to establish a source to cling to throughout the drought’s duration.

Since July, the parliament has allotted $192 million in food aid, water transport and animal feed with the hopes of sustaining a viable option even with the effects of the drought. This plan was adopted because early warning systems in Ethiopia are capable of providing large windows of time before possible droughts occur.

Despite this domestic solution, more is needed to successfully pull through the crippling natural disaster. The conditions have forced the government to raise international funding requests by $164 million in order to fully assist all those in need.

Only about 43 percent of the total $596 million request has been met, but international aid does take time to fully take effect, so Ethiopian officials are expecting more soon. They also claim that the drought could last up to a year and estimate a staggering 15 million could be in need of food assistance in 2016.

For now the Ethiopian government must stress the importance of rationing food, and individuals must find new ways of providing monetarily and nutritionally for their families.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: NY Times, University of Notre Dame
Photo: Flickr

Guatemalan Drought Creates Food Emergency
Over the last three years, Guatemala has experienced a drought that has taken a hungry nation and made conditions even more severe.

Before the drought, the nation experienced some of the highest levels of “inequality, poverty, chronic malnutrition and mother-child mortality in the region.” Almost 50 percent of children under the age of five suffer from chronic undernutrition; that is the highest number in their region and fourth highest in the world.

The drought has now taken what little bit of food supply the region can supply on their own and caused the crops to be stunted or not grow. Also, any food reserves have been depleted. Nearly one million hungry people are growing even hungrier with the drought.

The food emergency was an issue last year as well. On August 26, 2014, a state of emergency was declared in Guatemala after a particularly brutal drought was affecting the nation. The state of emergency was issued in 16 of the 22 provinces and at that time was affecting 236,000 families.

Currently, much of the nation’s population is relying on the government and U.N. handouts to feed their families.

Part of the reason that the drought is so devastating is the lack of improvements to the water infrastructure. The inefficiencies in collecting, storing and then irrigating the rainwater that does come expounds the problems that are associated with the drought.

Organizations are working to help those suffering most from the ravaging drought. The World Food Programme has created programs “geared towards reducing food insecurity, improving the nutritional status of mothers and children under 5 and living conditions of vulnerable groups by increasing agricultural productivity and farmer’s marketing practices.”

They cite two main programs they are conducting in Guatemala:

  1. Country Programme: 45,500 people will be given supplementary food in order to combat the chronic undernutrition, 12,000 subsistence farmers will be assisted and the program will help 3,000 farmers gain access to markets.
  2. Purchase for Progress: This program is working to link a much broader base of farmers and markets together. Also, guidance on best farming practices will be given to help grain quantity and quality.

While these programs may not directly stop the widespread hunger, it is putting food in the mouths of many who need it and creating an infrastructure to ensure that severe food shortages do not happen in the future.

They are also not the only programs that the World Food Programme is working on in Guatemala. There are long-term plans to help the country through future droughts and streamline food voucher distribution to help those hungry right now.

Guatemala has a long way to go. During this drought, so many people are suffering from worsening hunger. Unfortunately, this is not a new revelation or situation. The first area that has been addressed is the immediate need to feed the hungry.

But long-term action needs to be enacted. Thankfully, the Guatemalan government understands this and the World Food Programme has programs in place. Hopefully, in the future, a drought will not cause such widespread hunger again.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Guatemala: WFP Country Brief, NBC, Trust, WFP
Photo: Flickr


Djibouti is a small country on the Eastern coast of Africa populated by malnourished people. Because of its location, Djibouti is a shipping hub for Eastern Africa, and so it has a large urban population. Still, a World Food Programme Emergency Food Security Assessment in 2012 found that three-fourths of assessed households were “severely or moderately food insecure.”

In rural areas, where one-third of Djibouti’s population lives, there is a severe hunger crisis. One in five children aged one to four  years is malnourished and, in the rural areas, about 70,000 people were food insecure in 2012. In the slums, Arhiba and Balbala, there is a high rate of child mortality from malnutrition.This is in part due to the fact that the country has very little natural resources and there have been recurring severe droughts in the region.

Additionally, in recent years Djibouti suffered from a cholera epidemic. The droughts have damaged food production from crops and livestock in rural areas, and because the rural villages are spread out across the country, it is difficult for aid organizations to send food and healthcare to each community.

Many rural families have moved to cities in search of work and a better life. However, work is often difficult to find and, with more people migrating to the cities, the unemployment rate has increased quickly. Other rural families are fleeing to the slums to escape the harsh conditions of rural life.

Most households are receiving assistance, without which they could not survive. Fewsnet found in a 2012-2013 report that, in some areas, “households are marginally able to meet minimum food needs only through accelerated depletion of livelihood assets and adoption of unsustainable coping strategies such as charcoal sales.”

Prices and unemployment are rising as the droughts continue. The people of Djibouti need strategies for clean water, agriculture, health and nutrition. Until these needs are met, World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger and other organizations and governments are working to provide citizens with basic needs and helping the government develop programs for sustainability.

-Kimmi Ligh

Sources: Relief Web, Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

famine in somalia
In 2011, the United Nations declared a famine in numerous parts of Somalia. The 2011 famine in Somalia took the lives of 260,000 due to malnutrition, hunger and disease. Aid organizations are warning that signs of a drought are resurfacing in Somalia and cautioning that these signs cannot be ignored.

Thanks to improving conditions in Somalia, the people in need of aid has decreased from 4 million to 2.9 million. Yet, the improved situation is now at risk of relapsing because of high food prices, inadequate funding, lack of a rainy season, displacement and conflict.

Fighting between Shebab militants, international forces and the government have driven thousands to Mogadishu, where the displaced civilians live in makeshift housing.

There are still about 2.9 million people in need of live-saving assistance as well as over 300,000 malnourished children in Somalia. The number will probably increase as conditions worsen. Aid agencies are requesting immediate support in the next few months to avoid a relapse to the 2011 famine in Somalia.

Without immediate funding, aid programs could be shut down, even despite the rise of famished people in the conflict-ridden country. The 1.1 million internally displaced people would be hit the hardest.

In 2011, it took 16 warnings and a declaration of famine before sufficient funding was made available. This time, eight warnings of a probable famine in Somalia have been released since January 2014. Earlier in July, the United Nations warned that the food crisis was expected to escalate into the “emergency phase” in Mogadishu, one phase below famine.

It is essential that leaders continue to support humanitarian and developmental work in Somalia by providing sufficient funding.

Director of Somalia NGO Consortium, Tanja Schuemer, stated that the improvements made since 2011 cannot be lost due to the world losing interest in Somalia as a priority.

“Most affected people are still recovering from the massive losses of the 2011 drought and famine. This time, we must not fail the people of Somalia,” states Francois Batalingaya, World Vision’s Country Director for Somalia.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: Norwegian Refugee Council, Cross Map, Rappler
Photo: News

Out of the 8.5 million people facing crisis and emergency food security conditions in East Africa, more than 1.3 million live in Kenya, reported the World Food Programme. These crisis conditions are expected to worsen as the drought in the country continues, exacerbating current hunger and malnutrition in Kenya.

This June, the European Union (EU) granted Kenya $6.5 million for drought crisis preparedness, in an attempt to push back against further crisis and famine from severe droughts across East Africa. “It is designed to deliver a quick response from the Agency to Counties in the lead up to and in the event of an official drought being declared in order to mitigate its destructive effects,” the EU said in a press release. This emergency money will be used to dig new and rehabilitate existing wells, build food storage and educate Kenyans against starvation-driven conflict.

Drought and the impact on food supply is a real and increasing problem for hundreds of thousands living in the arid areas of Kenya,” said Erik Habers, Head of Development at the European Union in Kenya, in the release. Hunger in parts of Kenya, especially amongst the pastoral tribes, will likely reach a crisis-point before September, as crops grown before the drought begin to run out. “Well below average March to May long rains in the southeastern and coastal marginal lowlands are likely to lead to a below average maize harvest,” reads a report by Famine Early Warning Systems Network.

As the food crisis escalates, Kenyan deaths and illness associated with malnutrition will likely increase. Recent pre-crisis numbers, reported in the Star, indicate that 41 percent of children in urban areas and 35 percent of children in rural areas experience stunted growth from malnutrition. “The nutritional status of children in urban areas in Kenya is worse than that of rural areas,” said Elizabeth Kimani, a public health specialist with the Africa Population Health Research Centre.

These escalating food shortages not only impact Kenyan impoverished people, but also paint a bleak future for the thousands of South Sudanese refugees fleeing from violence and starvation into the Turkana region of northern Kenya.

Drought-stricken Kakuma, Kenya, is facing further crisis, now, as 20,000 Sudanese refugees have joined then 110,000 residents of a refugee camp already thousands past official capacity, local health official Robert Ewoi told NBC News. “The hunger situation has been growing from bad to worse as water pans have dried up, relief supplies diminished and local residents left to fend for themselves,” said Ewoi. Even areas without a constant stream of refugees remain in a fragile, near-crisis state. “What you are seeing is that people are being knocked off their feet by one shock and not quite able to get back on their feet before the next one hits”, said Nicholas Cox, of the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, to The Lancet.

Because the original vulnerability that left those people in famine remains ignored, Cox said, they fall into crisis with the next shock, be it famine, war or political instability.

-Sally Nelson

Sources: StarAfrica, The Lancet, The Star, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Food Programme
Photo: EarthTimes


Hunger in Pakistan has killed many people and affected the lives of many more, especially children. After a drought hit the Tharparkar district of Pakistan’s southern Sindh Province earlier this year, at least 132 young children died, many as a result of malnutrition.

The problem of hunger in Pakistan is not limited to Sindh Province, however. While Sindh certainly has the highest rates of malnutrition and least access to food, Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey reported that 58 percent of all Pakistani households were food-insecure.

Malnutrition is also widespread; the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey found that 24 percent of Pakistani children under 5 exhibited “severely stunted growth.”

Why is hunger such a prevalent issue in Pakistan? Some of it has to do with past inflation of wheat prices in the late 2000s, as it was more difficult for people to afford domestic grain. Infrastructural difficulty, such as providing electricity to flour mills, also poses a problem.

Still, the largest factor causing food insecurity in Pakistan is the nation’s own government and its policies that hinder food production and distribution.

Take, for example, the deaths from the drought: the government did not work to distribute food until after the crisis. As the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network reports, “the government didn’t act until [it received] reports of children dying” last December, even though animals had been dying since October and rainfall was decreasing. Moreover, government-run hospitals and clinics in the region have been constantly understaffed, making it difficult to get medical care to those who needed it.

Other government policies affect all of Pakistan, not just Sindh. Under the Corporate Farming Ordinance, the Pakistani government leases large tracts of land to foreign investors looking to stockpile crops for their own countries. This takes valuable land away from local farmers while keeping the food away from Pakistani citizens that need it.

The government of Pakistan seems to prioritize profits over its people. During the inflation of wheat prices in 2008, the government increased its wheat exports, depriving many hungry people of food. Even today, much of the wheat that large corporate mills produce leaves the country.

In reality, Pakistan should be capable of providing its citizens with enough food to survive, and there should not be as much food insecurity as there is now. Arif Jabbar Khan, Oxfam’s Pakistan director, affirmed that “missing public policy action and persistent economic inequalities are the main causes of malnutrition,” not droughts or famine.

How can hunger and malnutrition be reduced in Pakistan? Foreign aid providers may be able to earmark funds for the redistribution of grain to poorer areas, and this aid could be cut if the government does not comply.

Nevertheless, political pressure to change food distribution policy must come from within Pakistan itself. The citizens of Pakistan must demand change and hold elected officials responsible for their actions in the polls if the system is to be fixed.

 — Ted Rappleye

Sources: The Guardian, South Asia Masala, Triple Bottom-Line
Photo: Tribune


The ongoing civil war in Syria continues to raise fresh concerns about food security in the nation.

For over three years Syrian rebels have battled government forces throughout the country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported last month that over 160,000 people have died since the beginning of the conflict. The number includes civilians, rebel forces and government military personnel.

To date, the conflict has seen 6.5 million Syrians become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and another 2.7 million Syrian refugees flee to neighboring countries.

Yet, the impact of the conflict combined with a recent drought raises questions about food security in the country and its neighboring regions.

Since last year, much of the Middle East, including parts of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, has witnessed a drier than average weather pattern. Syria itself has experienced rainfall deficits during this time.

Farmers and others associated with the nation’s agricultural sector have felt the brunt of the deficit. Wheat — the national staple food crop in the country — as well as barley, have seen production declines since the beginning of the conflict. The civil war has also hampered the country’s production of cereal.
A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded that continued and strengthened assistance is required “for food and the agricultural sector to support livelihoods” in the war-torn country.

Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, such as Lebanon and Turkey, are seen by some as a burden to these countries’ food supplies. However, a May 2014 report by the World Food Programme (WFP) indicates food consumption in these countries appears to be considerably stable given the amount of refugees entering bordering countries.

To the relief of both Syrians and observers of the crisis, the region has experienced some positive news during the past month.

Several weeks ago, the Red Cross pledged to donate food rations to 60,000 people in Aleppo in both rebel and government areas of the city.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States will pledge more than $290 million to the country in humanitarian aid. The aid package includes $135 million dedicated to providing food assistance through the WFP.

With the civil war continuing to impact the nation’s economy, an improvement in drought conditions may not be enough to stabilize food security within the region. A more sustained international effort by wealthy nations to provide food aid is the most likely immediate answer to the crisis.

 — Ethan Safran

Sources: World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Syria HR, U.S. Department of State, British Broadcasting Corporation
Photo: Eco Watch

Poised to become the next humanitarian crisis, Kenya is suffering the consequences of a year-long drought. The BBC reports more than one million in need of food and other aid to survive this persistent dry spell. Women and children bear the burden of this drought, as 30,000 young men migrate with cattle to neighboring Uganda. Consequently, those remaining in the Turkana region must rely on roots, berries, and stray dogs.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network reports more than 34% of children under the age of 5 are at risk of malnutrition. This indicates a 7% increase from the five-year average. Reports predict a rise in malnutrition rates if the drought continues.

With a forecast predicting “subnormal” rains, Sam Owilly of Practical Action cautions the need for action before a full crisis arises. The Government succeeded in slowing the progression of food insecurity, yet severe malnutrition endures. The next four to eight weeks stand at a critical point; the Turkana region demands immediate water and food, in addition to “supplementary feeding and medical care of livestock.”

Though Owilly credits the government for its current efforts, Oxfam and Save the Children attribute the crisis to inaction. The joint report remarks:

“A culture of risk aversion caused a six-month delay in the large-scale aid effort because humanitarian agencies and national governments were too slow to scale up their response to the crisis, and many doctors wanted proof of a humanitarian catastrophe before acting to prevent one.”

The drought in Kenya highlights the prevailing pattern of desertification in East Africa. A number of warning signs, as early as 2011, indicated a dramatic decline in rainfall in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti. That year, a drought in east Africa claimed nearly 100,000 lives. More than half of those affected died before the age of 5, reports the United Kingdom Department for International Development.

To increase resiliency in these trying times, aid must focus on development of sustainable technology. Oxfam and Save the Children subsequently aim to “break down the divisions between humanitarian and development work.” In this crisis, these agencies advocate for lasting reform to lower present and future risks.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development supports this objective, investing in technology to support dryland agriculture. This specialized agency of the United Nations harnesses information and technology to help rural farmers survive water scarcity. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) promotes investment in technology. Satellite imaging, for instance, provides data on the rainfall and other weather conditions. This tactic better predicts the crop yields, and subsequently allows for “timely assistance.”

A billion people live on these dry lands and face the risks of climate change. Rising temperatures exacerbate food insecurity in this region, so, in response, relief agencies should invest in technology to identify the driest seasons. This early detection promises immediate relief in the form of food and water to the most at-risk nations.

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: The Guardian, BBC, IFAD