In the words of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, Anthony Lake, on the subject of the food security crisis in the Horn of Africa, “this is a children’s famine.”
There are upwards of half a million children facing imminent death from severe acute malnutrition, said a UNICEF press release today.
“Across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, an estimated 2.3 million children are already acutely malnourished,” it said.
A total exceeding 11 million people living in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Tanzania are need of food assistance, estimates the UN.
The UN is planning to airlift emergency food relief into drought-affected Somalia. UN agencies will venture into famine land in an attempt to reach 175,000 of the 2.2 million Somali individuals not currently receiving support.
The World Food Programme (WFP)’s access to needy population has been previously blocked by al-Shabab militants. The UN is aiming to procure $1.6 billion in relief over the next year, with $300 million coming over the next three months.
Last week, on Friday, Canada pledged to up its support to the Horn by $50 million, taking the Canadian contribution to the famine and food security crisis from $22.3 million to $72.3 million.
Canada's Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, has made a personal donation to the East Africa Drought Relief Fund, a new programme that will see the federal government match all funds donated to the food crisis by Canadians. Matched funds must be donated to registered Canadian charities, with the period of July 6-September 16 eligible for matching contributions.
“Canadians have a strong tradition of helping ease the suffering of others and have a history of supporting those in Africa,” said Minister Flaherty yesterday.
Bev Oda, chief of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), was in Kenya last week. On Friday, the same day the announcement concerning Canadian foreign aid was made, she visited the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which is housing roughly 400,000 people despite having been built to accommodate 90,000.
“The situation facing people in the region, especially the women and children, is dire. Canada is committed to making a real difference in their lives,” said Minister Oda at the time.
“Canada remains gravely concerned by this humanitarian crisis. Our commitment today will help bring relief to those affected, particularly for the women and children who are the most vulnerable,” she added during her visit.
Somalia may not be among Canada’s priority countries, but Ethiopia and Tanzania did make the cut. In fact, Canada is the fourth largest bilateral donor in Ethiopia. Among Canada’s thematic focus areas for assistance is food security. Market-based solutions, agricultural initiatives and watershed rehabilitation are some of the activities to be undertaken in the county.
Food security, in general, is also a priority area of Canada’s 2009-2012 Aid Effectiveness Agenda.
Some the world’s major economies have also pitched in considerable sums in order to help. Britain has committed $146 million, with the US contributing $28 million, Spain $10 million, Germany $8.5 million and the European Union $8 million.
Nevertheless, it may not be enough to ensure that everyone in need receives enough assistance to survive. UNICEF remains concerned about its own potential to respond fully. The agency may in fact face a shortfall of $200 million.
“Those contributions are already saving lives. Today, we have a chance to do even more. Every day can mean the difference between life and death, on a massive scale . . . And we are counting on all of you,” said Mr. Lake today in Rome.