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Children aged five and under are especially vulnerable to malnutrition and the illnesses that frequently accompany it, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea. Here, two-year-old Aden Salaad looks up toward his mother as she bathes him in a tub at a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Photo by Yonzi

As scientists rally around the notion that the Horn of Africa Famine is not attributable to climate change but rather to a particularly virulent La Niña event, meteorologists in Lagos, Nigeria, have no problem equating the torrential rainfalls currently crippling Lagos to the changes in climate associated with global warming.

In fact, AllAfrica reports that the Nigerian House of Representatives Wednesday pressured President Goodluck Jonathan to sign Nigeria’s National Climate Change Commission Bill to accelerate interventions as extreme flood events increase in both intensity and frequency.

Meanwhile, Alternet reports from Lagos on growing concerns regarding the rapid spread of water-borne illnesses perpetuated by flood-contaminated drinking water.

“We might also experience a little dry season in this month of July, but because of climate change we might get it earlier or later in the month," Abayomi Oyegoke, the chief meteorologist of the Central Forecast Office of Nigeria Meteorological Agency told Business Day newspaper.

As environmentalists step up the call for early warning systems to help all vulnerable countries and regions prepare for extreme weather events resulting from climate change, the potential famine in the Horn of Africa is still being tied to La Niña. NASA's Earth Observatory provides an analysis of the situation:

A typical December in much of East Africa is rainy, the end of a 3-month rainy period before a dry stretch that usually lasts from January to March. In 2010, however, the rains were erratic and ended in early November. December was hot and dry. Two thirds of Somalia received less than 75 percent of normal rainfall, reported the UN-funded Somalia Water and Land Information Management program. Without rain, the pastureland and cropland in the region produced poor crops and little grass for livestock, leading to food shortages and livestock deaths, said the United Nations.

Poor or failed rainfall during the short rain growing season (October to December) is a classic La Niña signal. In late 2010, a strong La Niña cooled surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, while allowing warmer water to build in the eastern Pacific. The pool of warm water in the east intensifies rains in Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Domino-style, this pattern also increases the intensity of westerly winds over the Indian Ocean, pulling moisture away from East Africa toward Indonesia and Australia. The result? Drought over most of East Africa and floods and lush vegetation in Australia and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Oxfam East Africa Appeal - special report from Wajir, Kenya

The best news today is the BBC report that  Kenya will be opening the Ifo II camp, which can house 80,000. The camp had remained closed over fears that its opening would encourage more Somalis to cross the border, but Kenya's prime minister says the enormity of the humanitarian crisis has changed his government's position. UNHCR  will oversee the relief efforts in Ifo II.

Many of the arrivals have walked for days or weeks, desperate to escape not only from the drought in Somalia but also its long civil war. Photo by Yonzi.

In a local report on the food crisis in Kenya, Vision Africa talks to people like Florence, headteacher at Nairobi's Seed of Hope Centre, who says a 2kg bag of maize flour, a staple used for porridge and ugali, has increased in price from about 60 cents to $1.70 over the past four years.  

This makes it all the more important for our feeding programs to continue to ensure that children are eating at least one decent meal a day. However, our projects are struggling to stretch their budgets to buy the vital supplies they require.


The last time drought hit Kenya, I remember sitting down with the headteacher of a primary school in Kambiti which neighbours our Percy Davies School for children with special needs. He told me, sadly, that attendance levels at his school were falling day by day as children were sent out to find food instead of going to school. His school didn’t offer a feeding program so there was no incentive for parents to send their children to school as they would go hungry all day and possibly not have anything to eat at night other than boiled unripe mangoes. This really highlighted the importance of feeding programs…as well as ensuring that children are fed, in times of crisis it can mean that their education continues.

Children receive Plumpy'Nut nutritional aid in Ethiopia. Photo by USAID Africa

Reporting today from Kenya’s Dadaab camp, The Guardian’s Kristin Davis writes of being totally “unprepared for the utter sense of panic in the people I met there. These were the newcomers, people who could not fit into the largest refugee camp in the world. Because they could not fit, they were left outside in the nothingness that surrounds the camp. Their unbelievably difficult journey towards food, water, and shelter had led them to none of those things.”

They were panicked because many had lost children during the journey to Dadaab, and many children were dying on arrival. Past the point where food and water could bring them back to life. They were panicked because hyenas circle the area every night looking for the weakest of the children. The women I met are mostly alone, trying to protect babies and small children by themselves with nothing but thorny twigs. Most of these women have collected "unaccompanied minors" along their journey to the camp. These children are no relation to the women who now try to keep them alive. They are probably orphans. But that will take some time to sort out.

East Africa Famine Facts
• More than 10 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
• Food Price Inflation as reflected in changes in Grain Markets
- Baidoa, Somalia Red Sorghum: + 240%
- Jiiga, Ethiopia: Yellow Maize: + 117%
- Mandera, Kenya: White Maize: + 58%

Famine Facts

There are three different categories of famine -- supply-based, food consumption-based and mortality-based -- and five definitions: (See Wikipedia: Famine Scales)

   * Blix – Widespread food shortage leading to significant rise in regional death rates.
    * Brown and Eckholm – Sudden, sharp reduction in food supply resulting in widespread hunger.
    * Scrimshaw – Sudden collapse in level of food consumption of large numbers of people.
    * Ravallion – Unusually high mortality with unusually severe threat to food intake of some segments of a population.
    * Cuny – A set of conditions that occurs when large numbers of people in a region cannot obtain sufficient food, resulting in widespread, acute malnutrition.

The Famine Scales

Level 0:

Phrase: Food Secure:
Lives: Crude Mortality Rate (CMR) < 0.2/10,000/day and/or Wasting < 2.3%
Livelihood: Cohesive social system; food prices stable; Coping strategies not utilized   

Level 1:

Phase: Food Insecure
Lives: 0.2 <= CMR <0.5/10,000/day and/or 2.3% <= Wasting < 10%   
Livelihood: Cohesive social system; food prices stable; Coping strategies not utilized

Level 2
Phrase: Food crisis
Lives:0.5 <= CMR < 1/10,000/day, 10% <= Wasting < 20%, and/or prevalence of oedema
Livelihood: Social system stressed but largely cohesive; Dramatic rise in food and basic items prices; Adaptive mechanisms begin to fail; Increase in irreversible coping strategies

Level 3
Phrase: Famine
Lives:1 <= CMR < 5/10,000/day, 20% <= Wasting < 40%, and/or prevalence of oedema
Livelihood: 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

Level 4
Phrase: Severe Famine
Lives:5 <= CMR <15/10,000/day, Wasting >= 40%, and/or prevalence of oedema
Livelihood: Widespread social breakdown; markets close; survival strategies widespread; affected population identifies food scarcity as the major societal problem

Level 5
Phrase: Extreme Famine
Lives:CMR >= 15/10,000/day
Livelihood: Complete social breakdown; widespread mortality; 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

Source: Famine Intensity and Magnitude Scales: A Proposal for an Instrumental Definition of Famine. Howe & Devereux

In January 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization warned that 11 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia were in danger of starvation due to the combination of severe drought and military conflicts.

• BBC: What you Need to Know
• Al Jazeera Horn of Africa (english)
• AlertNet Q&A: How Bad is the Horn of Africa Drought
• PhotoEssay:  7/11 PBS Newshour
• Images/Maps Guardian Interactive Horn of Africa Drought Map
Why doesn't a drought go away when it rains?
Oxfam: Food crisis in Wajir, Kenya


Coverage @ KOS

This is the fifth diary covering the Horn Of Africa Crisis.

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



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

Receive treatment for severe acute malnutrition through the provision of Ready- to-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF) such as Plumpy’Nut at community level or at therapeutic feeding centers;
• Gain access to clean water through the repair of pumping
stations, digging of boreholes, chlorination of water
sources, and water trucking;
• Receive vaccines against measles, polio and other
deadly diseases; and
• Resume schooling through the provision of temporary learning spaces and School-in-a-Box kits.

h/t cai:

FreeRice- donates 10 grains of rice to the WFP for each answer you answer correctly.

The HungerSite - Click to give free food

Social Media

 Twitter: #foodcrisis #HornofAfrica #drought

Facebook: Horn of Africa  


Regional Drought Response Plan: East Africa Droughts.

Fri Jul 15, 2011 at 3:40 PM PT: Somalia: MILLIONS Threatened RIGHT NOW by Climate Change-Induced Chronic Drought; Most Severe Humanitarian EMERGENCY/CLIMATE CRIME in World EcoSanity Blog has great resources

Originally posted to EcoJustice on Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 07:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, BPICampus, Citizen Journalism, DK GreenRoots, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Beyond Kyoto, Liveblog Group, SFKossacks, DeepKos, and Climate Hawks.

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