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).
Health In Emergency Situations/Humanitarian Assistance
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who is traveling in East Africa with a U.S. delegation “to study the famine affecting the lives of over 12 million people, many of them children,” writes in the Huffington Post’s blog, “Huffpost Impact,” that the group will assess “what more we as a nation can do.”
“President Obama has approved an additional $105 million for ‘urgent humanitarian relief efforts’ in the Horn of Africa, White House press secretary Jay Carney announced in a statement Monday afternoon,” Politico’s “Politico44” blog reports (8/8). “Carney says the money will help provide food, shelter, water, and sanitation and health services to those in need,” according to the Associated Press/Washington Post (8/8). The money will come out of the Emergency Relief and Migration Assistance Fund, Carney said, adding that the U.S. has provided about $565 million in humanitarian aid so far this year, Reuters notes (8/9).
Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz and Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith arrived in Kenya on Monday to assess and raise awareness of the famine conditions in the Horn of Africa, Capital FM News reports (Kaberia, 8/8). “Biden’s trip is the highest-profile U.S. visit to drought-stricken East Africa since the numbers of refugees began dramatically increasing in June,” according to the Associated Press (Straziuso, 8/8).
“Famine relief efforts in Somalia are being hampered as much by delays in procuring food aid and raising funds as by difficulties in accessing Islamist-controlled areas, according to humanitarian organizations working there,” the Guardian reports. Staff from several aid agencies working within al-Shabab-controlled areas “say the major problem in responding to the crisis is the time it is taking to buy food abroad and to transport it to the worst-hit areas,” the newspaper writes (Rice, 8/4).
UNICEF on Tuesday “appeal[ed] to the air transport sector to provide free and discounted cargo space to bring emergency food supplies into the region,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/2). UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, warned in its latest situation report that “[c]hild mortality rates among Somali refugees in Kenya are on the rise and there are ‘alarmingly high rates’ of malnutrition,” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C (8/3).
UNICEF last week said it “faces a shortfall of more than $50 million to meet the continuing critical needs” of children in Pakistan, one year after monsoon floods submerged nearly one-fifth of the country, the U.N. News Centre reports (7/29).
The famine in the Horn of Africa is getting worse, and unless there is “a massive increase in the response, the famine will spread to five or six more regions” in Somalia, Valerie Amos, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told reporters on Monday, Reuters reports. Amos said the U.N. needs an additional $1.4 billion to help those in need and that the African Union would soon hold a funding conference, the news agency notes (Charbonneau, 8/1).
The “crisis in southern Somalia is expected to continue to worsen through 2011, with all areas of the south slipping into famine,” according to a U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report for countries sending aid to the region, Reuters reports.
For the first time since the food crisis in the Horn of Africa began, a U.N. plane carrying 10 tons of food aid for children landed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Wednesday, “as aid groups warned of a growing influx of hungry families from the famine-hit south of the country,” Reuters reports (Sheikh, 7/27).