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drought in AfricaThe Horn of Africa, a region where nearly 80 percent of the population relies on farming for survival, has been hit with a prolonged and harmful drought. Periods of dry weather are not uncommon in the area. However, such a significant timespan without any rainfall spells disaster for those who require healthy crops to make a living. The Horn of Africa drought is even more dangerous considering climate change and the United States’ reduced foreign aid budget.

The Drought

The Horn of Africa is well acquainted with droughts. The region has faced several in recent years. However, the current dry spell is severely affecting the ability of families to obtain food, making it one of the harshest droughts the region has seen.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that the ongoing Horn of Africa drought has triggered widespread food insecurity, especially among families raising livestock. Expecting the drought to cause increased hunger, the FAO issued a pre-famine alert for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The governments of Kenya and Somalia have already declared a national disaster.

The FAO also reports that families are malnourished due to scarce food and a lack of proper nutrients. Since the onset of the drought in 2017, the number of people grappling with food insecurity has increased dramatically. For example, 2.7 million people in Kenya, 2.9 million people in Somalia and 5.6 million people in Ethiopia are suffering from food insecurit.

Climate Change: Another Hurdle

Climate change is a major factor influencing the impact of the African Horn drought. According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2018, the number of disasters related to climate change have doubled since 1990. These events include flooding, droughts and fires caused by extreme dry heat.

The people who live in the region have remarked on the disastrous consequences of climate change. Birhan, an Ethiopian mother of four, commented, “We have not seen an improvement in the climate situation… The drought is becoming recurrent. But if there is rain, it is excessive and destroys the crops.” Birhan and 1.5 million other people are able to receive emergency rations during the drought thanks to the USAID food program. However, the aid is not enough to quell the rising need for food, livestock and water.

Cutting Back Foreign Aid

In March, the White House proposed the 2020 fiscal budget. This budget aims to cut U.S. foreign food and financial assistance by 24 percent. This funding reduction will exacerbate the adverse impacts of the Horn of Africa drought. Without assistance from developed nations such as the U.S., access to food and clean water will become more difficult for those inhabiting the affected regions.

Matt Davis is the East Africa regional director for Catholic Relief Services, an organization overseeing a U.S.-funded food program in the area. Davis commented on the federal budget’s impact on struggling populations: “We’re very concerned by the deteriorating conditions in the region where we are seeing families–whose lives rely on the land–unable to cope,” he said. “We are concerned the administration’s budget could abandon millions of families around the world just when they need help the most.”

Relief Efforts

Climate hazards and reduced U.S. assistance have worsened the impact of the Horn of Africa drought. Several organizations are working to help families with food and financial aid to combat these issues. In 2017, the European Union decided to further aid the people of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia during the recurring drought by offering nearly €260 million in financial assistance.

The Horn of Africa drought is cyclical in nature. The countries most affected by the drought are seeking localized solutions to surviving climate-related issues. Kenya appears to be moving forward in this area, with the government investing in community water sources independent of rain-fueled agriculture.

Ethiopia has also made strides in building a defense against the drought by implementing The Productive Safety Net Programme. This program helps food-insecure communities build stockpiles of food to prepare for drought and ultimately become food self-sufficient.

Coordination between the affected countries and more developed nations is necessary to build resistance to drought and other disastrous climate-related issues. Global financial and food assistance programs, a U.S. budget that does not drastically reduce foreign aid and localized efforts to build resistance against drought are effective approaches. These strategies will help the Horn of Africa move closer to a truly thriving expanse of subsistence farming.

– Holli Flanagan
Photo: Flickr

Help People in Djibouti

Djibouti, a small country in the region known as the Horn of Africa, has struggled in recent years with the effects of drought, famine and loss of income. As less than .04 percent of the country’s landmass is arable farmland, Djibouti relies heavily on other countries to provide food and other amenities, the prices of which can fluctuate wildly. As a result, Djibouti is in a near-constant food crisis, often finding it difficult to pay for the basic sustenance its citizens need. 23 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty and 39 percent of the population is unemployed. To address these issues, many organizations have already begun to work to improve conditions. Here are five ways to continue this good work and help people in Djibouti:

  1. Help provide water. In addition to making it difficult to grow crops, widespread drought in Djibouti has made it difficult for many people to access to water at all. In some rural communities, families only get 40 liters of water every two or three days, and that water must provide for an entire family. Often the nearest water source is 14 miles away. In 2011, $1 million was allocated through UNICEF to provide food, water and sanitation to Djibouti, and other organizations, such as Action Against Hunger, have also been instrumental in providing water. Even so, many families do not have a consistent source of water, and there is much work still to be done.
  2. Provide food. As Djibouti’s growing conditions leave much to be desired, one of the first and most important ways to provide help is through providing food. The World Food Programme, which has been present in Djibouti since 1978, has fought to make sure that people in Djibouti have access to proper nutrition and have even slowly helped to build a national school meals program.
  3. Contribute to health services. In addition to malnutrition and lack of clean water, the health of people in Djibouti suffers from the effects of HIV and AIDS. The World Food Programme, as one of its main goals for the country, hopes to help people in Djibouti with HIV/AIDS by providing them with specialized nutrition products to aid recovery. Action Against Hunger, meanwhile, supports six emergency care facilities throughout Djibouti, including one based in Djibouti City.
  4. Support the industries that drive growth. While Djibouti is unable to sustain an agricultural industry, it has found an opportunity in other fields, specifically, port services, construction and transportation. One of the most direct ways to support the growth of its GDP is to visit the country and experience its rich culture in person.
  5. Encourage foreign nations to give more. As the economy of Djibouti still relies heavily on foreign nations, those nations must give all that they can. To let your government know that foreign aid is a priority, contact your representatives by phone or by email.

Djibouti’s economy and people have suffered greatly from factors far out of their control, and it is in other countries’ best interests to help people in Djibouti however they can, whether in small ways, like donating a few dollars to a charitable organization, or through larger ways, like pushing foreign governments to help. Given time and hard work, we can see Djibouti’s luck begin to change.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

Famine in the Horn of AfricaA senior United Nations official claimed earlier in the year that the world faced the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. The crisis he was referring to is the devastating famine which threatens to affect over 20 million people — 1.4 million of those being children — in the Horn of Africa and neighboring regions. Populations in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria are at tremendous risk of starvation. A mixture of catastrophic circumstances including drought and war-fueled conflict have pushed the region to the brink of devastation; the situation could potentially reverse gains in economic development and destroy the livelihoods and future of a large swathe of the population. However, in spite of this calamitous situation, few people in the United States are aware of what is going on, and the situation gets little coverage in the press. Eight international relief organizations based in the U.S have decided to take action and have created a joint effort to address the famine in the Horn of Africa: the Global Emergency Response Coalition (GERC).

Earlier in the year, when senior U.N. official Stephen O’Brien claimed this was the worst humanitarian crisis in decades, he stated that an immediate injection of funds was necessary to avert the situation. “To be precise,” he said, “we need $4.4 billion.” This goal, however, has not been attained, and the international community has done little to reach that number. The Global Emergency Response Coalition, the first of its kind in the United States, has not established a concrete goal for its fundraising; however, the organization admits that it is far short of raising enough to fully solve the crisis. A big part of the joint effort to address the famine in the Horn of Africa is to create a campaign of awareness throughout the press and social media to bring attention to the issue.

The Global Emergency Response Coalition is formed by CARE, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision. Several companies have also committed to the joint effort to address the famine in the Horn of Africa; Pepsico and Blackrock have promised to match up to $1 million each for every dollar donated.

The situation is most dire in Yemen, where 18.8 million people — two-thirds of the country’s population — need desperate aid, and more than 7 million people do not know where their next meal will come from. In South Sudan, more than 7.5 million people need aid, up by almost 2 million since last year.

You can help the joint effort to address the famine in the Horn of Africa by donating to the Global Emergency Response Coalition or by following the GERC on all social media channels and sharing their causes to help raise awareness.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Yemen Refugees
The Yemen civil war has escalated the number of refugees fleeing from Yemen to safer locations for their families. Here are nine facts you need to know about Yemen refugees.

  1. About two million people have been displaced because of the war in Yemen.
    Before the war began in Yemen, poverty was already an issue for many in the country and it was the poorest nation in the Arabian Peninsula before the war. The war has only caused the number to rise. Refugees have been fleeing to neighboring countries, with Saudi Arabia taking in the largest amount of Yemen refugees. As a result of poverty, most refugees are not able to flee to the United States and Europe as often due to the high costs of traveling to these countries.
  2. Civilians and many family members are still in danger in Yemen.
    A number of the victims in Yemen are civilians who have been caught in the crossfire of the war. A six-year-old was shot in the back while walking in his home city of Taiz with his father, according to the BBC. Civilians that spoke with BBC described multiple times when civilians have been shot at and innocent people that have died due to the war. Also, many refugees that have fled end up returning to different parts of Yemen in order to help their family members, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  3. Many have been fleeing to the Horn of Africa despite the war going on there.
    About 3,000 Yemen refugees have been fleeing to the Horn of Africa, a place where war and crisis are also prominent. The countries in the Horn include Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan, all of which have suffered from many political issues. Everything from famine to bombings has disrupted the region, but still, many Yemen refugees migrate across the Gulf of Aden to escape the danger in their home country.
  4. Refugees are without food, water and other basic needs.
    With many citizens being displaced across the country and region, some of the biggest needs include food, water and shelter, according to Ayman Gharaibeh, the country representative for Yemen for UNHCR. “More than half the population is without adequate food and health care and this will only worsen,” said Gharaibeh in an interview with UNHCR. Many refugees are living in poor conditions, which just increases the spreading of diseases among them.
  5. Yemen was one of the seven countries banned from the United States by President Trump.
    On Jan. 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants for 90 days from seven countries, one of which was Yemen. The other countries, which comprise Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia and Libya, were placed on a ban to “prevent a terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals,” according to the United States Department of Homeland Security.As of recently, President Trump’s ban has been suspended by multiple federal judges who repealed the ban. This now allows citizens of the seven countries to come to the United States. President Trump does have plans to fight the repeal in court.
  6. Many are forced to live in refugee camps.
    There are countless stories of refugees leaving their homes and lives behind in order to find a safe place to stay while the war continues. Many have fled to neighboring countries and other countries in the world, but many have also ended up in refugee camps. Al Kharaz is a refugee camp in the southwest region of Yemen near the Gulf of Aden. More than 16,000 refugees live in this camp, with many from Somalia and Ethiopia, according to UNHCR.
  7. Different humanitarian groups and organizations are bringing aid to Yemen.
    Around the world, many groups and organizations have brought attention to the crisis in Yemen since the civil war began. UNHCR is just one of the many organizations bringing aid to Yemen. Others include UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP).
  8. Many of the victims are children.
    As with the story of the six-year-old who was shot in the back, many children have been victims of the war. About 500,000 children are in need of care in Yemen due to malnutrition, according to UNICEF. One child dies every ten minutes in Yemen due to starvation and malnutrition, also according to UNICEF.Not only are children starving, but many have been caught in the crossfires in their own towns. In President Trump’s first raid, 10 women and children died due to an airstrike in al-Bayda, according to Al Jazeera.
  9. There are a lot of ways to help the refugees of Yemen.
    Through the countless organizations in the world that are helping those in Yemen, any citizen can donate money to the organizations to help feed and care for the Yemen refugees. Another way to help is by learning about the situation or supporting a group such as Doctors Without Borders in order to help those in need in Yemen

As the war in Yemen continues, people will continue to flee the country to seek the necessary resources to live safely, causing the crisis to grow and for more refugees to need help.

Hailey Rose McLaughlin

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Somalia
Situated on the Horn of Africa and plagued by a history of instability, Somalia has fallen victim to crisis after crisis. The end result has created massive hunger in Somalia. Clan warfare, droughts, famines, and the presence of terror group al-Shabab have left much of the country vulnerable and without food.

10 Facts about Hunger in Somalia:

  1. Most recently, hunger in Somalia has worsened due to a two-year drought. Of the country’s 12.3 million people, 6.2 million are severely food insecure. In addition, almost three million cannot reach their daily food requirements.
  2. This is not the first hunger crisis to occur in the country. In 2011, an estimated quarter-million people died due to a severe famine.
  3. Somalia is not the only country currently suffering from a hunger crisis. Hunger levels worldwide are at their highest in decades. Four countries, Nigeria, South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia, are at risk of famine.
  4. Somalia has been attempting to gain stability since the fall of dictator Siad Barre in 1991. The country has been slowly rebuilding itself, with the establishment of a transitional government in 2012 and the election of a new president on February 8.
  5. Somalia has an infant mortality rate of 13.7 percent, the third-highest in the world. Malnutrition is largely to blame, according to UNICEF.

  1. The situation is worse in rural areas, as poor rainfalls have resulted in failing crops and water shortage. As a result, nearly three-quarters of the country’s livestock has died, which harms pastoralists’ livelihoods.
  2. The drought has reduced maize and sorghum harvests to about 25 percent of past averages. Food prices in Somalia have reached near-record levels.
  3. Hunger in Somalia is also high among internally displaced populations (IDPs). Approximately 638,000 of the 1,200,000 IDPs in Somalia are struggling to feed themselves. IDPs are on the move and suffer from loss of income and reduced access to social services.
  4. Somalia has one of the world’s lowest school enrollment rates. Just 42 percent of children — 36 percent are girls — are in school. The U.N. World Food Program operates a program that provides free school meals as a way to both improve attendance and address hunger in Somalia.
  5. “Humanitarian assistance has saved lives in the drought-affected north over the past year, but as the crisis spreads we have no time to lose,” Laurent Bukera, country director of the U.N. World Food Program told the U.N. News Service. The U.N. issued an appeal for 2017 for $864 million to provide assistance to Somalis. The U.N. World Food Program has also put together a $26 million assistance plan.

Hunger in Somalia has a detrimental impact on communities and future generations. The conflict hinders the country’s progress toward establishing stability. However, understanding the facts and conditions surrounding hunger in Somalia is an essential first step in becoming a part of the solution.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

human rights violations in eritrea
Resting at the horn of Africa, the nation of Eritrea lies between the developing nations of Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to some of the world’s worst longstanding and ongoing cases of human rights atrocities. The violations have ranged from arbitrary detainment and torture, forced labor and popular oppression on multiple fronts.

Eritrea’s current system of governance is labeled as a transitional government with the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) as the only political party. The PFDJ party gained incumbency during the elections of June 1993; there have been no elections since then.

President Isaias Afewerki is in control of the PFDJ party and is presently the head of state and government. Moreover, PFDJ under the Afewerki regime holds authoritative control over all national, regional and local political offices.

Although there has been extensive documentation of human rights violations in Eritrea, there has been no participation in the Universal Periodic Review, a process in which each member state of the United Nations undergoes a human rights review every four and a half years. Unfortunately, Eritrea has not allowed access for the United Nations Special Rapporteur to conduct the review.

According to a 2013 annual report carried out by Amnesty International, just a few of the many human rights violations in Eritrea include compulsory military training and forced labor for children. The Afewerki regime has also arbitrarily detained and tortured thousands of civilians. There are no opposition parties, independent media or civil society organizations, as the government does not permit them.

The degree of oppression is quite appalling and has resulted with up to 3,000 refugees on a monthly basis, most of which are children. Last year, over 300,000 refugees fled from Eritrea to neighboring countries and have placed economic burdens upon them as a result.

After intensive analysis on the human rights paradigm, Sheila Keetharuth, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, spoke before the United Nations General Assembly in October 2013. She urged the international community to focus their efforts on Eritrea by stating, “The current human rights picture is desperately bleak. People feel trapped in a long hopeless situation as they see no end to it to the point that they take the irreversible decision to flee, forcing them on the road to exile.”

It has been over two decades since the “transitional” Afewerki regime under the PFDJ party has come into power. With the authoritative oppression that the people of Eritrea are subject to, it has become clear they have no power to control their own circumstances. Thus, the human rights tragedy can only be addressed with international intervention.

– Jugal Patel 

Sources: HRC, Amnesty USA
Photo: Ethiopian News Forum

sammies_medal_USAID_opt
Every year the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) pay tribute to the United State’s federal workers by recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the U.S. Medalists are honored based on their commitment, innovation, and the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.

This year USAID worker and her team are one of the finalists for the 2013 National Security and International Affairs Medal, one of the eight Sammies medal categories. Cara Christie and USAID’s Horn Drought Emergency Response Team are among the finalists in this category for their tireless endeavors in leading the relief effort following the drought in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya in the Horn of Africa. Christie coordinated the relief effort from her office in Washington D. C.,  providing immediate emergency relief to the affected countries and enacting methods to improve their agrarian economies after they had been decimated by three years of the worst drought that the Horn of Africa has ever seen.

Not only did Christie lead the relief efforts, but she is credited with recognizing the significance of the impending famine almost a year before it unfolded. Christie convinced her superiors in USAID of the need to be proactive by making advance preparations in the fall of 2010—a move that hastened aid to the region and saved lives. Christie used lessons learned from other drought response situations to come up with a program pairing health, nutrition, water, and sanitation program with food and voucher programs that helped repair the damaged economies in the Horn of Africa.

It may seem strange that an award given for service to the United States could be received by a team dedicated to giving relief to another country, but in reality Christie’s actions were crucial to U.S. national security interests. The Horn of Africa represents one of the regions of the world that most threatens U.S. national security because it houses some of the most conflict prone states in the world, including Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. It also is in close proximity to Yemen, a major center of U.S. counterterrorism action. The U.S. also houses the military base Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, which serves as the most important staging ground for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Aid efforts in the region, along with in the rest of the world, contribute to stability and thereby hold radicalization at bay, furthering U.S. interests, and making the U.S. more secure.

– Martin Drake

Sources: Washington Post
Photo: USAID

Poverty in Djibouti
Djibouti is a small country in the Horn of Africa. Surrounded by Ethiopia and Somalia, the country has a strategic location and fruitful fishing waters. However, regional instability has put pressure on Djibouti’s economy and resources, heightening poverty levels. Djibouti has taken on many refugees and immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia, burdening its already weak economy.

The average unemployment rate in the country is around 45% and over half of the very poor in Djibouti have no employed members of their family. Poverty in Djibouti is also affected largely by poor education, health, and nutrition. Djibouti has a literacy rate of 57%, life expectancy at birth is 49 years, and 26% of children under five years old are chronically malnourished.

This data underscores the need to invest in human capital to alleviate poverty in Djibouti. Pro-poor education strategies need to be adopted with a particular focus on education for women and girls, who have a much higher illiteracy rate than men. Preventive health programs should also be enacted to develop human capital. Women often have too many children at too young of an age, and education could increase the ability of couples to space their children properly and promote family planning methods.

USAID has enacted several programs to address poverty in Djibouti. USAID works with Djibouti’s Ministry of Education to develop a teacher training plan and has trained over 1,200 teachers in the country. USAID has also, according to its website, supported parent-teacher associations, linked secondary schools with university mentors, and developed strategies to improve access to education for girls. USAID has also contributed to programs combating polio and tuberculosis, in addition to aiding food distribution to combat malnutrition. The U.S. is currently the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, where Djibouti is located.

The effort to combat poverty in Djibouti suffered hardship in 2011 when the eastern Horn of Africa was hit with its most severe drought in 60 years. The drought-affected more than 10 million people, inducing high child mortality rates and sharply increasing food prices in the region. Djibouti is still in the process of recovering from the crisis.

USAID’s website describes Djibouti as a “unique and strategic partner for the United States.” The U.S. maintains the military base Camp Lemonnier in the country which serves as a staging ground for U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Djibouti’s government is committed to peace and holds moderate views compared to some others in the region which includes the conflict-prone countries of Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Combating poverty in Djibouti is crucial to the stability of the region, and could lead to more prosperous economies on the Horn of Africa that contribute to the global economy.

– Martin Drake
Source: World Bank, Reuters, Washington Post
Photo: The Guardian

harry-halo_pakistan_horn_of_africa_global_poverty_halo_trust_usaid_international_aid__opt

Foreign aid organizations are often thought of as those that provide supplies of food, water, and medicine to those around the world who need it. The HALO Trust, however, was set up to improve the process of relief as well as defend civilians. The HALO Trust was formed in March 1988 in order to provide assistance to those in areas of war (Pakistan and the Horn of Africa) that were scattered with anti-personnel landmines.

Since 1988, the HALO staff in Afghanistan has grown to over 3,600, and has cleared over 700,000 mines from fields and stockpiles. HALO’s programs have reached many other countries as well such as Cambodia, Mozambique, Chechnya, Georgia, and more recently Sri Lanka and Colombia. As the “world’s oldest and largest humanitarian landmine clearance organization”, HALO is leading the way in making war zones safe for civilians and for transport of goods and services through trade. Their policy of “Road Threat Reduction” has since cleared 5,196 km of anti-tank mines off of roads in Angola.

HALO Trust also supports links between their usual mine clearance and development initiatives. Because these mines make it more difficult for development actors to visit and aid them, they are especially in need of help rebuilding their villages. First, however, mines need to be cleared in order to have safe ways to raise livestock and prevent killing or maiming of civilians. Their policy is to link development to demining, rather than demining to development.

While demining is their major effort, they also train their promoted staff as paramedics in order to make comprehensive medical knowledge a part of every team. Their funds are allocated to certain teams for a certain period of time as well as being spent on equipment and other expenses. Each donor ends up knowing exactly what they funded in terms of mines destroyed, amount of land cleared, and number of people that have benefited. Administration salaries are paid with an extra administration charge given to institutional donors.

Overall, the organization is a great help to those living in war zones, and continues to clear mines and work across the world to ensure the safety of civilians.

– Sarah Rybak

Sources: HALO Trust
Photo: Telegraph