Millions could die of hunger as drought grips Horn of Africa

One woman told of how she walked for six days to reach the Dadaab camp with her three children, the oldest aged 7

The United Nations declared parts of Somalia to be in a state of famine yesterday and said the lives of more than 11 million people across four countries are threatened by the worst drought in the Horn of Africa for 60 years.

Click HERE to DONATE NOW. Click HERE to view graphic (70k jpg)

Aid experts said the greatest tragedy was that early-warning systems had predicted the emergency but appeals had been ignored. Oxfam accused European governments including France, Italy and Denmark of "morally indefensible wilful neglect" for having paid only $200m (£123m) of the $1bn requested by the UN to stave off humanitarian disaster in the drought-prone region that straddles Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Speaking in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Oxfam's regional director, Fran Equiza, said: "The world has been slow to recognise the severity of this crisis. If more action had been taken we would not now be at the stage where so many people are facing starvation."

The UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden, said $300m was needed in the next two months for Somalia alone. He said that 3.7 million people are in danger across the country, 2.8 million of them in the southern regions of Bakool and Lower Shabelle where the UN has officially declared a famine. Mr Bowden said the emergency could spread to the other six regions of southern Somalia within two months. "We still do not have all the resources for food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis in desperate need. Every day of delay in assistance is literally a matter of life or death for children and their families in the famine-affected areas," he added.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, announced yesterday that Washington will give an extra $28m of emergency aid to combat the famine.

Thousands of families have trekked across Somalia's parched lands to reach refugee camps across the borders for food. One woman told how she walked for six days to reach the largest camp in Kenya, Dadaab, with her three children, the oldest aged seven. "We were hungry and couldn't get work," the woman, Dainabo, 30, told aid workers. "Five days after we arrived my husband died leaving me a widow and my children without a father."

Habiba Mohamud Hassan fled from the capital, Mogadishu, for northern Somalia after her husband, a labourer, was killed during fighting. She told Save the Children that she was unable to feed her three-month-old baby because her breast milk had dried up because of lack of food. "This drought has left us destitute, and the war has taken what little we had left," she said.

Drought is a fact of life in much of the Horn of Africa, but climate experts say dry seasons are becoming longer and harsher, and are affecting ever-wider areas. Twenty years of war have left southern Somalia deforested and it is the first time for 19 years that famine has been declared in areas of the country.

The past two rainy seasons – the Deyr in October and Gu in April – have failed. The herders of the area generally lead a sedentary life for part of the year, settling where rains allow for a harvest of maize or sorghum. But in the past year, no fields have been ploughed and the semi-nomads have moved around with their cattle, goats and camels in search of land to graze on.

The two famine regions are controlled by Islamist insurgents of the al-Shabaab groups, who in 2009 began blocking aid convoys to areas they control because of an ideological opposition to Western influence. Even in the absence of politics, humanitarian work is fraught in south Somalia, where aid workers spend hours negotiating safe passage and paying taxes imposed by bandits acting for different clans.

The UN World Food Programme has welcomed a recent statement by al-Shabaab groups requesting aid in Bakool and Lower Shabelle but is seeking guarantees of safe passage. The global rise in food prices has also played a role in the crisis in Somalia.

The definition of famine

* The UN declares famine when more than 30 per cent of children are acutely malnourished, more than two people in every 10,000 die per day and people have no food or other basic necessities.

* The definition is currently restricted to two regions of Somalia. But according to the World Food Programme, the drought across the Horn of Africa is affecting 3.2 million people in Kenya, 3.7 million in Somalia, 3.2 million in Ethiopia and 117,000 in Djibouti.

* The World Food Programme says it is considering airlifts of high-energy biscuits and food supplements for children and pregnant mothers.

To make a donation to the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, visit www.dec.org.uk or donate over the counter at any Post Office or high street bank. You can also donate £5 by texting the word CRISIS to 70000

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions