14/07/2011 - According to one United Nations agency, the current food crisis in the Horn of Africa region is the most severe in the world.
More than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa region are suffering from severe hunger in what has been called “the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world” by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) earlier today.
The Horn of Africa, sometimes called Northeast Africa, is the land mass that forms a peninsula protruding hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea along the southern part of the Gulf of Aden below Yemen. The region includes Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia.
The food insecurity crisis at present is classified as a “stage four” crisis. The World Food Programme’s scale for such disasters contains only five points, ranging from “general food secure” (stage one) to “catastrophe famine” (stage five).
Days and weeks is the length of time that refugees from Somalia have been walking to reach the Dadaab camp in north-east Kenya. Dadaab is already home to an estimated 400,000 people, with about 1,500 new arrivals every day, reports NBC. The camp is well past capacity, having been built to accommodate only 90,000 people.
Most of the new arrivals in Dadaab are former subsistence or small-scale farmers from Somalia, forced to flee their desiccated land and war-ravaged country once food supplies dwindled. Some 40 per cent of the children arriving in Dadaab are undernourished.
Millions of people in the country urgently require food aid, estimated the UN. In addition, aid officials from the United States fear that the situation in Ethiopia may be worse than feared. According to the Ethiopian government, about 4.5 million people in the country require food assistance.
While families have been forced to walk impossible distances, parents have also been forced to make impossible choices as they try to feed themselves and their children. The number of children left unconscious, buried in makeshift graves or abandoned altogether along the roads to Dadaab are the testimony to this fact.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), one in ten children living in southern Somalia suffers from acute malnutrition. The rate of malnutrition in this part of the country is the highest in the world, the ICRC announced yesterday.
According to UNICEF, there are more than a half of a million Somali children whose physical and cognitive development has been threatened by a lack of proper nourishment. There are serious consequences for the severity of present rates of malnutrition, for children need healthy amounts of key vitamins and minerals in order to make sure that their bones, organs and immune systems grow properly.