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Somalia Famine Highlights Need For Long-Term Food Security Initiatives

Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) write in a USA Today opinion piece about their visit last week to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, stating, “Amid the devastation, we saw the impact of [U.S. and international] aid. We saw inexpensive oral rehydration packs bring listless babies back to life. We saw children getting vitamins and vaccines that will stop the spread of deadly diseases throughout the camps.”

U.S., International Support For Somali Refugees Making A Difference

Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, U.S. representative to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, writes about her recent visit to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog. “There is something remarkable about seeing how U.S. contributions – both from our government and the private sector – can be transformed into something as concrete and life-saving as a simple meal for a little girl. Washington has committed around $580 million to the relief effort. Hopefully that will save a lot more children here in Dadaab and around the Horn. The international community has provided around $1.4 billion, but it’s not enough – I know that and we continue to push for more support from other donors. But it is a start and it is making a real and lasting difference,” she writes (8/12).

Disease Outbreaks, Looting Hampering Relief Efforts In Somalia Famine

“Outbreaks of measles and cholera are striking down Somali children already weakened by hunger, resulting in dozens of new fatalities,” the Guardian reports (Rice, 8/13). According to the WHO, “181 people have died from suspected cholera cases in a single hospital in Mogadishu, and there have been several other confirmed cholera outbreaks across the country,” the New York Times writes (Gettleman, 8/12). UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado “said Friday that tens of thousands of children have died and countless more are particularly at risk of cholera and other diseases because of drought and violence in East Africa,” the Associated Press/NPR notes (8/12).

Mixed Reports From Aid Organizations In Somalia After Al-Shabab Pulls Out Of Mogadishu

The news from the Horn of Africa is “mixed,” NPR’s “All Things Considered” reports, adding, “More food is getting through and security has improved for now, but tens of thousands of children have already died and many more are at risk.” According to NPR, “Aid groups were pleased last week when al-Shabab, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, pulled out of the capital, Mogadishu. That made a dangerous country a little bit less so for aid workers” (Keleman, 8/10).

International Community, Especially China, Must Invest More In African Agriculture And Health

A drought and “security crisis as a result of political conflicts, civil war and anarchy” in Somalia are to blame for the famine recently declared by the U.N., but “[t]he international community is also to blame for responding too slowly and neglecting its responsibilities in this preventable disaster,” a Lancet editorial says. “The USA, Europe, and other wealthy donors waited until pictures of starving children and desperate women made the evening news to hand over funds. China, Africa’s second largest trading partner after the USA, merely said it would pay ‘close attention’ to the disaster, and only pledged a modest $14 million of food aid on August 5, after U.S. House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, urged the country to do more,” the editorial states.

Multi-Prong Approach Needed To Fight Famine In Somalia

“The Obama administration deserves credit for acting in advance to ameliorate the effects” of drought in East Africa, a New York Times editorial states, noting that USAID has been working since last summer, when the crisis was predicted, to “plac[e] food and other supplies in Kenya, Djibouti and South Africa” and “working on programs to help Somalia and other countries improve food production to avert future crises.”

Clinton Announces Additional $17M For Horn Of Africa, Urges Long-Term Investment In Agriculture, Food Aid

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a speech at the International Food Policy Research Institute on Thursday that the U.S. has pledged an additional $17 million in emergency food aid to the Horn of Africa, with $12 million going to humanitarian operations in Somalia, Voice of America writes (Baragona, 8/11). “Clinton said … the new money – which comes on top of $105 million in U.S. assistance announced on Monday – would bring total U.S. humanitarian aid to the drought-hit region to more than $580 million this year,” Reuters reports (8/11).

Feed The Future Helping Countries Develop Agricultural Sectors

“Spearheaded by USAID, President Obama’s food security initiative – Feed the Future – is helping countries develop their own agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah writes in a post on the agency’s “IMPACTblog.” He describes several projects underway in Kenya and Ethiopia aimed at improving…

Rising Food Prices In East Africa Exacerbating Food Shortages, Famine, FAO Says

“The prices of grain and milk in the drought-hit Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have risen to record highs, exacerbating hardship for the estimated 12.4 million people in the region who are facing severe food shortages and famine in some parts of Somalia,” according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s August food price monitor, the U.N. News Centre reports (8/10).

Members Of U.S. Delegation To Horn Of Africa Discuss Response Efforts

The August 8 visit of a U.S. delegation to the drought-stricken Horn of Africa “was important in terms of shedding light on the important efforts that are under way and the importance of continued support from the international community,” Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Eric Schwartz said on Tuesday during a briefing on the trip, IIP Digital reports (Babb, 8/9).