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Please begin with an informative title:

Transporting water across the dessert. Kenya. Photo: Jakob Dall - Danish Red Cross

An Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) image taken on the NOAA-18 POES satellite provides a stark portrayal of the East African drought, with large swatches of brown indicating poor growth stretching across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and into parts of The Sudan. The imaging system is used to record the amount of light plants absorb during photosynthesis across a broad region.

The poor harvest and lack of pasture in July compounds existing food security problems. The previous crop,harvested early in the year, was also poor. In Somalia, the harvest was less than 20 percent of the average harvest, and people began to run short on food in April. Another bad harvest reduces food availability even more, which means that food prices will likely rise more in the coming months. Source: Irish Weather Online

Newly arrived refugees from Somalia wait to be registered at Dagehaley camp, one of three camps that make up the Dadaab refugee camp in Dadaab, north-eastern Kenya, July 2011. Photo by CARE Australia

According to FEWS Net (Famine Early Warning System) reports, the food security crisis in the region rivals the situation which occurred in 1990-91. The organization announced today plans to release food security reports every ten days, in conjunction with FSNAU (The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit)to enable the rapid dissemination of analysis to expedite rapid response by humanitarian assistance agencies.

Today's report, Somalia Dekadal Food Security Monitoring No. 1, provides the following details:


* Evidence of severely reduced food access, acute malnutrition, and crude mortality indicates that a famine is currently ongoing in two areas of southern Somalia: the Bakool agropastoral livelihood zones and all areas of Lower Shabelle. A humanitarian emergency currently exists across all other regions of the south.
    * Current humanitarian response is inadequate to meet emergency needs. As a result, famine is expected to spread across all regions of the south in the coming 1 to 2 months.
    * In total, 3.7 million people are currently in crisis nationwide; among these, 3.2 million people need immediate, lifesaving assistance (2.8 million in the south). As of early July, 390,000 children under five are acutely malnourished, 170,000 severely; 81 percent of malnourished children live in the south.
    * The current situation represents Africa’s worst food security crisis since Somalia’s 1991/92 famine. A massive multisectoral response is critical to prevent additional deaths and total livelihood/social collapse. Most immediately, interventions to improve food access and to address health/nutrition issues are needed. In the medium term, interventions to rebuild and support livelihoods are critical. Extraordinary measures to provide these responses should be implemented. These assistance needs will persist through at least December 2011

So far, there has been no loosening of restrictions by al-Shabab regarding allowing access from international agencies banned since 2009, a position condemned by the Somali government. Aid activists are calling for the U.N. Security Council to address the issue.

U.S. based Horn of Africa expert J. Peter Pham told Voice of America reporter Nico Colombant that loosening the rules which dictate US involvement with less radical militias in Somalia could enable more access to the region, where famine has currently been identified in two districts.

“I think the sanctions have a kind of a self-censoring incentive on aid organizations. So as a result aid is not flowing to where the people are. They are flowing to certain centers and people have to walk sometimes days to get there and not everyone unfortunately makes it,” he said.

Aid activists have called for the issue to be taken up at the U.N. Security Council, Colombant reports.

Temporary homes, built by Somalia Refugees newly arrived at Dagehaley camp, one of three camps that make up the Dadaab refugee camp in Dadaab, north-eastern Kenya, July 2011.Photo by CARE Australia © Kate Holt/CARE

Meanwhile, according to Reuters,  the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has called for an emergency meeting in Rome Monday to strategize how to most effectively mobilize and deliver assistance to the East African countries currently experiencing the worst drought in over 60 years.

Yesterday, a Reuters Photography Blog editor wrote about how the flow of pictures into the news agency's Global Pictures Desk  "never shuts down and this flow of pictures is never ending — 3 shifts a day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But when I step out of the office I’ve always been able to purge my mind of images that undoubtedly caused nightmares for my colleagues out in the field who actually were there taking the pictures.

Until today, July 21, I’d thought I had been desensitized enough to be able to handle anything our photographers send in and be able to see the world unfold, and in turn show the world what’s happening right now.


I wonder how do you feel as you see these pictures? Are you sick to your stomach at the thought that this child didn’t die of a gunshot wound, a bomb blast or disease but of the lack of the most basic necessity, food?

When I saw these pictures I sat in my seat, for the first time in my career, feeling completely impotent. That’s when I walked away from the desk, away from my colleagues, and for the first time, in the office… I cried.


Interview with UN Humanitarian Ambassador to Somalia – Mark Bowden by Crystal Huskey, Foreign Policy Association

“There is a concern about the famine deepening,” Bowden said.  “What’s more worrying at a time of famine is measles, diarrheal disease epidemics; these are the lessons from previous famines in ’91 and ’92.”

Bowden has personally been working in Somalia on and off since the ‘80s, but most recently has been assigned there for the past three years.

“This particular period [of drought] starting when the Dayr [October to November] rains failed at the end of the year,” he said.  “The current rains have been late.”

In such a fragile environment, even one season lost to drought has devastating effects.

“People lost their crop production in the main growing areas in the south and lost their livestock,” he added.  “We’ve had three or four years of drought.  Most areas are going to be in famine.  Averting the crisis is going to be very difficult, but we can still save the lives of tens of thousands of children.”


UPDATE 1-Aid groups can't reach 2 million drought-hit Somalis: Reuters

DADAAB, Kenya, July 23 (Reuters) - Aid agencies cannot reach more than two million Somalis facing starvation in the famine-struck country where Islamist militants control much of the worst-hit areas, the U.N.'s food agency said on Saturday.

World Food Programme (WFP) officials said they were considering food drops from aircraft into some areas controlled by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, which imposed a ban on food aid in 2010.

"There are 2.2 million people yet to be reached. It is the most dangerous environment we are working in in the world. But people are dying. It's not about politics, it's about saving lives now," Josette Sheeran, WFP's executive director, told agency staff and reporters in northeastern Kenya.


Somalia drought victims attempting suicide to escape worst ever famine

One man driven suicidal by the struggle to feed his family was seen slashing his stomach – but was left writhing in agony as he failed to end his despair.

Other fathers have run away from their loved ones in the worst-hit rural areas, believing they can find food in towns to save themselves, aid workers say.

Their desperation is more wretched because their actions run counter to their Muslim faith, say charity workers.

‘That’s how anguished people are getting,’ said Hassan Liban, from British-based charity Islamic Relief.


Aid Groups Criticize US Response to East Africa Drought

Aid activists also say-long term aid efforts, including agricultural ones such as the current U.S. Feed the Future initiative, which are often touted as solutions to end hunger around the world, often get burdened in bureaucracy and lack the necessary follow through and resources to be effective.

Speaking recently, the U.S. Agency for International Development administrator, Raj Shah, said the focus was now once again on the short term. “The effort to bring agricultural development to a standard where we can eliminate food insecurity is a longer-term effort and we know that in the short term and in times of crises and calamity our ability to get food and nutrition to those who are vulnerable is going to be our first line of defense. We have seen this time and time again,” he said.

On a recent visit to a Somali refugee camp in Kenya, the U.S. official blamed the al-Qaida linked Islamic insurgents al-Shabab for causing the worst effects of the drought. “A big part of why we have a famine in very specific parts of Somalia today is because of al-Shabab and ineffective governance in Somalia and a lack of humanitarian access in precisely those parts. It is no accident that the specific geographies that have been declared by the international community as an official famine are those areas where humanitarian actors from all parts of the world simply have not been allowed to have access to the population,” he said.


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East Africa Famine Facts
• 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance
• Over 2 million children under the age of five who are suffering from malnutrition; 480,000 are severely malnourished
• UN declares famine in two regions of southern Somalia
• Women are disproportionally affected by the drought as they are the last to eat when food is limited.
• Aid response nearly $1 billion short of what is needed

What is a Famine

Most major aid agencies - the FAO, the WFP, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Save the Children UK, CARE International, the European Commission Joint Research Centre and Oxfam - only describe a crisis as a famine when the situation on the ground reaches level five on the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system. This means:

    * at least 20% of the population has access to fewer than 2,100 kilocalories of food a day
    * acute malnutrition in more than 30% of children
    * two deaths per 10,000 people, or four child deaths per 10,000 children every day

There are three different categories of famine -- supply-based, food consumption-based and mortality-based -- and five definitions: (See Wikipedia: Famine Scales). The Levels range from Level 1 (Food Secure) to Level 5 (Extreme Famine). Currently, the UN has established a Level 3 (Famine) exists: a situation in which mortality rate ranges from 5-10,000 per day.
Clear signs of social breakdown; markets begin to collapse; coping strategies exhausted and survival strategies (migration in search of help, abandonment of weaker members of the community) adopted; affected population identifies food scarcity as the major societal problem.

Magnitude scale:
Category A: Minor Famine:  0-999
Category B: Moderate famine  Mortality Range:1,000-9,999
Category C:  Major famine     10,000-99,999
Category D Great famine     100,000-999,999
Category E Catastrophic famine     1,000,000 and over

BBC: What you Need to Know
Al Jazeera Horn of Africa (english)
How Bad is the Horn of Africa Drought: AlertNet Q&A:
PBS Newshour: PhotoEssay:  7/11
Guardian Interactive Horn of Africa Drought Map
Why doesn't a drought go away when it rains?
Oxfam: Food crisis in Wajir, Kenya
Fighting Famine in Southern Africa: Steps out of the Crisis. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recently released a report outlining sustainable options for ending hunger and poverty, tailored to address famine in Africa.


Coverage @ KOS

This is the latest in a series of diaries covering the Horn Of Africa Crisis. Please provide links in comments below to other diaries omitted from coverage below. This series is being run through the Ecojustice Group.

HoundDog on 7/22: Al Qaeda Linked Militants Vow to Block Humanitarian Aid To Starving Somalis: Part 2
HoundDog on 7/22: Worst Drought in 60 Years Brings Famine To Millions in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Aid is Blocked
boatsie on 7/22: Somalia:  "This is the Children's Famine"

The Troubador on 7/22: My Cousins are about to Die
rebel ga on 7/18: Worst Drought In 60 Years For Somalia, Kenya And Ethiopia!
boatsie on 7/14: East Africa Drought: You say La Niña & I'll say ... HELP!
boatsie on 7/12: East Africa: Famine II
boatsie on 7/11: Famine Threatens 11 Million in Horn of Africa
GlowNZ on Sunday, 7/10: People are Starving
Stranded Wind on Sunday, 7/10: Somalia's Dying Time



Kos EcoJustice Team Africa Top 3 Choices for Donations to Horn of Africa Crisis

Save the Children**
The World Food Programme: Fill the Cup: (THE WFP needs $200 million just to meet this year's needs in the Horn of Africa.) *


Care International
UNICEF: Donate to Save Children in Horn of Africa Crisis
FreeRice- donates 10 grains of rice to the WFP for each answer you answer correctly.
The HungerSite - Click to give free food.

WFT: 10 Ways You Can Help

Social Media

Twitter:  #HornofAfrica, #drought, #famine

Facebook: Horn of Africa  


Regional Drought Response Plan: East Africa Droughts.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to EcoJustice on Sat Jul 23, 2011 at 02:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Yes We Can Pragmatists, J Town, DK GreenRoots, and Black Kos community.

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