The drought that has stricken much of Africa, particularly Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti and Kenya, has now left at least 500,000 children malnourished and at great risk of death. According to Anthony Lake, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) executive director, children who are the worse affected by drought plagued famine, are suffering from ‘severe acute malnutrition, whose clinical signs include swelling in the feet, legs or face caused by an extreme shortage of protein’. Aid is much needed in order for these children to survive and become healthy.
“I talked to a mother who was feeding her child pounded palm nuts, with no nutritional value, moistened in her mouth as the local wells have become saline.” (IRIN)
The ensuing famine did not come without warning from Aid workers, however now that it has firmly gripped Eastern Africa the struggle to feed millions, in what is claimed to be the worst drought since 1950, has left them only fearing the worse. The UN estimates that some 12 million people are already faced with hunger. And that is likely just the beginning. Currently the the UNHCR as labeled many areas as under “emergency”, however on Wednesday, 20 July, 2011 the UNHCR declared famine in two regions in southern Somalia, where 3.7 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance (UN). United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon labeled the situation a “catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought” and has appealed for immediate aid. The UNHCR stated that the famine may only continue to increase if international donors do not begin to act soon to help the millions of men, women and children in need.
“If we don’t act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months,” said Mark Bowden, humanitarian coordinator for Somalia (DerSpiegel).
In response the United Nations has now called an emergency meeting to discuss the drought and famine, which it says has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. Democracy Noww spoke ith Christian Parenti, author of “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence”, who stated;
“This was predicted long ago by people on the ground,” Parenti says. “It’s a combination of war, climate change and very bad policy, particularly an embrace of radical free market policies by regional governments that mean the withdrawal of support for pastoralists, the type of people you saw with their dead cattle.”
The situation for the children of these drought stricken countries is sever, as they continue to face an increasingly high risk of death due to the cause of malnutrition. Those that survive will be left with their physical and social development hampered, many of which will need continued support for years to come, some even their whole lives.