Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Drought Warning Prompts Call for Early Action

Kigali — Drought is likely to return to Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa over the next three months, say regional climate scientists meeting in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The forecast comes just weeks after the UN declared the Somali "famine" over.
"There is a high probability of drought returning to the Greater Horn of Africa...Poor rains are a definite in all of Somalia, Djibouti, northern Kenya, southern, eastern and northeastern Ethiopia," said Laban Ogallo, director of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), which provides forecasts for the Horn.
"We have put the message out there. It is now up to governments, civil society and the media to prepare... for the worst-case scenario even if the worst does not happen. There is no harm in being prepared," he said. "We must realize many of these areas are already facing the cumulative impact of several droughts."
Youcef Ait Chellouche, deputy regional coordinator of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said the coping mechanism of people in most of these areas who experienced severe drought in 2010-2011, is almost non-existent. In the coming days, he said, he would be meeting disaster risk managers from various countries and agencies to draw up a plan for early action.
"We cannot wait for people to show up in Dadaab [refugee camp in eastern Kenya] yet again. We have to take preventive action now. We need to find ways to secure livestock and provide cash transfers to people now. These are some of the lessons from last year's drought," he added.
It took scientists three days of brainstorming over rainfall and temperature data, the status of ocean currents and the strength of the La Ni-a to make the forecast at the 30th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum in Kigali.
Increased cyclonic activity recorded over the Indian Ocean in the past few weeks was one of the major factors drawing moisture away from the Horn, explained Ogallo. "The Indian Ocean is rather warm at the moment and will continue to be over the next few months." He cited the recent cyclones recorded near Madagascar.
Climate scientists Andrew Colman with the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre and Vadlamani Kumar from the US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the residual effects of a dying La Ni-a were also a factor in possible poor rains over the Horn.
La Ni-a occurs when the surface of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean - the world's largest body of water - cools, and has a climatic impact in other regions of the world. A particularly strong La Ni-a was recorded in 2010-2011 and parts of the Horn experienced their driest period in 60 years.
"We are in a transition phase. It [La Ni-a] seems to be dying out but it always gets a bit chaotic now [weather-wise] during such time," said Peter Ambenje, deputy director of Kenya's meteorological department.
"Near normal to below normal rains" - meaning the outlook is not very hopeful - have also been forecast for southern, eastern and northern Tanzania; Burundi; Rwanda; Uganda; and western and southern Kenya.
High temperatures
"We have already recorded some of the highest temperatures ever in the past 13 years in northern Kenya in January 2012," said Ambenje. The government, he said, was already planning contingency measures. "People will need water and their livestock will need to be secured."
The US Agency for International Development's FEWS NET said people should expect erratic rain in southern Somalia and southeastern Kenya. It would be releasing a detailed outlook in the coming weeks.
Ethiopia's pastoralists in the Somali Region and the agro-pastoralist communities in southern Oromia could be in for hard times ahead, and The Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNPR), one of Ethiopia's poorest, is also likely to face a drought, say climate scientists.
However, Dula Shanko, head of Ethiopia Meteorological Department, said they expected the drought to be less severe than last year, as most parts of Ethiopia had received good rains towards the end of 2011.
Djibouti is already facing water shortages, said Osman Saad Said, chief of the country's Met Division. At least one in eight people there was in need of emergency aid in 2011, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. "We are already drilling more and more bore-wells in the city," he said.
Many disaster experts cited the slow response by governments and donors to the early warning forecasts of the 2010-2011 Horn drought.
Abbas Gullet, secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross, said his organization had responded to the warning and launched an appeal in early 2011, but it had not managed to raise sufficient resources as the government had failed to ring official alarm bells. Only after it went to the people later in the year as part of the "Kenya 4 Kenyans" campaign were sizeable funds raised.
One of the problems highlighted was the lack of linkage between early warning and early action. "There is no framework that allows the trigger of funds when the early warning bell is sounded," said one aid worker.
"Governments and people must take pre-emptive action on their own accord and not wait for donors to provide funds," said another.
"It will be interesting to see how humanitarian actors - and donors - will factor this information into their decision-making, what they will be doing on this basis in the next few weeks," said Maarten Van Aalst, director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, and co-ordinating lead author of the summary of the special report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change (SREX) produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2011.
"Given the moderate strength of the forecast signal, I think the best options would be no-regrets investments, particularly aimed at high-risk areas still suffering from the current crisis, and proper monitoring so that further scale-up can be fast when it is needed," he added.
Given the moderate strength of the forecast signal, I think the best options would be no-regrets investments, particularly aimed at high-risk areas still suffering from the current crisis, and proper monitoring so that further scale-up can be fast when it is needed."
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]
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Contribution Of US$114 Million From Japan Helps WFP Fight Hunger In 21 Countries | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme - Fighting Hunger Worldwide

Published on 28 February 2012

YOKOHAMA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a US$114 million contribution from the government of Japan to provide urgently needed food and nutritional assistance to millions of the most vulnerable people including refugees, internally displaced people, malnourished children, pregnant and breastfeeding women in 21 countries. The donation will also support logistics operations in two countries.

“We deeply appreciate the continued support of the Government of Japan,” said Naoe Yakiya, Officer-in-Charge of WFP Japan Relations Office. “Japan has championed the fight against hunger and this significant contribution illustrates Japan’s leadership in promoting human security and peace building. Thanks to this contribution, WFP will be able to provide life-saving food assistance to millions of people affected by natural disasters and conflict as well as high food prices.”

In the Sahel region of West Africa, Japan’s timely donation will support WFP’s regional emergency response which aims to reach more than eight million hungry people who have been severely hit by recurrent drought. Urgently needed food such as rice and fortified food products will be delivered with Japan’s assistance.

In the Horn of Africa region, drought, conflict and high food prices are hampering people’s access to food. Japan’s contribution will help provide vital rations such as cereals, pulses, and maize.

WFP’s logistics operations will also benefit from the donation, including those in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the agency is responsible for running the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, which provides critical air transport and cargo services for the humanitarian community.

The breakdown of the contribution is as follows: Afghanistan (US$30 million), Tajikistan (US$1 million), Yemen (US$ 7.5 million), Cameroon (US$1 million), Central African Republic (US$1.5 million), Chad (US$3 million), Côte D’Ivoire (US$3.4 million), Guinea (US$2 million), Guinea-Bissau (US$1.4 million), Liberia (US$2.2 million), Niger (US$3 million), Madagascar (US$1.98), Zimbabwe (US$2.61 million), Republic of Congo (US$1.3 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (US$6 million), Djibouti (US$1.5 million), Ethiopia (US$10 million), Kenya (US$6.5 million), Uganda (US$5 million), Sudan (US$15.3 million), and South Sudan (US$7.4 million).

So far this year, Japan’s contribution to WFP has reached US$115 million, making it the second largest donor to WFP.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

LDS Aid in Ethiopia - 1984: LDS

LDS Aid in Ethiopia - 1984

I've been reading up on how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown in Nigeria. In the process, I found an interesting article from the 1988 August Ensign talking about the church's efforts during the 1984 Ethiopia famine and other aid projects. In response to the famine in Ethiopia, the Church sent out a special request for the entire membership to go without food or water for 24 hours (a fast) and give the money they would have spent or more specifically to help the people in Ethiopia:

In 1985, two precedent-setting letters from the First Presidency called upon Church members in the United States and Canada to join in special fasts. The funds donated during these fasts would be “dedicated for the use of victims of famine and other causes resulting in hunger and privation among people of Africa, and possibly some other areas.” The letters promised that “all funds contributed … will … assist the hungry and needy in distressed areas regardless of Church membership.” The Saints’ combined outpouring of compassion yielded almost eleven million dollars.
Immediately following the first special fast in January 1985, Church leaders identified “organizations of unquestioned integrity” that the Church could assist in distributing food, tents, and medical supplies to suffering victims in Ethiopia and neighboring African nations. During the remainder of 1985 and most of 1986, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, and CARE delivered the Church-provided relief supplies.
In the spirit of the Church’s welfare services’ philosophy of helping people to help themselves, however, General Authorities determined that some money should also go into projects that would promote long-term self-reliance. So a portion of the donations was channeled into several projects like the one in Geddobar. Most of these activities, carried out in Ethiopia, Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana, have focused on water and agricultural development as a hedge against future drought. (See accompanying sidebars for details on some of these projects.) Monies from the second special fast held in November 1985 are currently being allocated for projects in other areas of Africa, as well as on other continents where severe need exists.
The article also describes two members who volunteered with Africare on a Church-sponsored project to set up equipment and train local residents in drilling water wells. Projects in Niger, Chad, and other areas around the world are described. On the Church's ongoing commitment to humanitarian work that has been only growing over the last 25 years, it says:
Church humanitarian assistance is part of our obligation to our fellowman, no matter what their creed or form of government. Reporting on a visit to Ethiopia, Bishop Glenn L. Pace wrote, “Our contributions helped all people irrespective of their political affiliation. When Elder [M. Russell] Ballard and I walked the land, we didn’t see Communists, Marxists or Capitalists, but hungry people, all sons and daughters of God.” (Church News, 26 December 1986, p. 3.
The article describes the water projects in Ethiopia and their success in depth. I have regularly blogged about the Church's ongoing efforts to provide water in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
When it is completed this summer, these farmers will have contributed more than 200,000 man-days of labor to the project. Sacrifice is not uncommon; some workers walk two to three hours from their mountain homes to put in a ten-and-a-half-hour workday, then walk home again. The average worker contributes five to eight days of labor per month on the project. A food-for-work system provides each worker with about six and a half pounds of grain for a day’s labor.
While high technology and modern equipment could have been used to shorten the construction time and lessen the human effort, the project was deliberately designed to be completed by residents using indigenous materials and local tools. This allowed the people to help themselves and to develop a pride of ownership in the finished product. ...
The Ethiopian government has quickly realized the value of having water available year-round in the valley, and it points to the project as a model that other humanitarian agencies can replicate. In the words of one government leader, “This is a very important project, and we want others to mirror [it]. It provides lifelong independence for these people—they can double or triple their output. ...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Students focused on famine relief during Black History Month - News - The Inkwell - Armstrong Atlantic State University

Throughout February, several of the university's student-based organizations are sponsoring a series of events and fundraisers in honor of Black History Month.
"This is an event that's significant for our students, and we're very happy to observe Black History Month at the university," said Melody Rodriguez, founder and director of the Hispanic Outreach and Leadership at Armstrong program. "We have a large percentage of African-American students at the university who are going to not only be proud of their heritage and what they're bringing with the observation of the events but also be able to share their history and culture with other students and the community."
Believing African-Americans were overlooked and ignored in history books, historian and founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History Carter Godwin Woodson created Negro History Week in 1926. He chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln — Feb. 12 — and Frederick Douglass — Feb. 14.
"If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile traditions, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated," Woodson once said.
Fifty years later, this theme-oriented tradition extended to include the entire month of February and continues to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of successful African-Americans.
With this year's theme of black women in American history and culture, Armstrong's chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the African Caribbean Student Organization screened "Daughters of the Dust" in the Ogeechee Theater of the Student Union Feb. 6. The film is set in 1902 and centers on the lives of three generations of Gullah women from the once-isolated islands off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia.
On Feb. 27, the core ensemble will also perform "Ain't I a Woman!" This chamber music theater work celebrates the lives of four African-American women: novelist Zora Neale Hurston, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, folk artist ClementineHunter and civil rights worker Fannie Lou Hamer.
However, not all of the university's Black History Month events will be centered around this year's theme. While Armstrong has a long history of service and benevolence for the city of Savannah, NAACP, ACSO, Collegiate 100 andHOLA hope to raise funds and awareness in an effort to make a global difference.
"Last year during summer, there was this big news event about the eastern hemisphere of Africa — mainly focusing on the Somalia-Sudan area — and there was a famine and just a shortage of food in general," said Haddy Gassama, president of ACSO. "I believe the UN predicted something like 600,000 kids were going to go without food and pretty much die unless something was done about it.
"It was a huge news story, but I also saw that it disappeared just as quickly as it came because, of course, there were other stories.
"However, the situation is still going on. It's improved only a little, so I think for us as young people, it's important to be aware of these things that are going on around the world as opposed to just staying in our own Armstrong world."
At all of the events, the groups will be collecting canned food and monetary donations for the East African Famine Relief's efforts. From Feb. 13 through Feb. 17, they will host a bake sale called "Feed Yourself; Feed a Child," in the Student Union. All the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the World Hunger Program. NAACP and ACSO will also host a party at 8 p.m. in the Student Union Feb. 17.
"The party on the 17th is not just a mere party, but it's entitled ‘What a Dollar Can Do,' showing that we're giving $1 to come to this party, but it has a much bigger meaning behind it," said Dominique Hardy, president of the NAACP. "The reason why we're hosting this party is so that we can help someone else."
The Coastal Health District will also administer free HIV/AIDS testing, sponsored by NAACP, Collegiate 100 and HOLA.
"It's pretty important because not just in the African-American but in minority communities as well, HIV and AIDS are prevalent — killing thousands, millions yearly — and a lot of lives could be prolonged if they just got tested," Hardy said.
The initiative to give free HIV/AIDS a originated as a project for Hardy's gender and women studies class last semester.
"Initially, I was just doing it for my grade, but when I saw the need — before we even opened the doors, people were waiting outside. I estimate that we had 60 plus people come," Hardy said. "It was to the point where we got put out of the room because we only had it reserved for two hours. There were more people trying to come, so we decided to bring this initiative back."
In an effort to educate the student body about African-American history, the NAACP will also be posting little-known information around the Student Union.
"A lot of the things, you'd be surprised, like NAACP. The biggest misconception is that it's only for black people, but it was actually started by two Caucasian people," Hardy said. "You got things like that that people just don't know.
NAACP, ACSO, HOLA and Collegiate 100 hope to use Black History Month to not only highlight their culture and history but also unite the student body.
"Collegiate 100 is hosting an ‘Ebony and Ivory' party where the predominantly black organizations and the predominantly white organizations on campus are going to join together and have a party," Gassama said.
During the last week of February, "Ebony and Ivory" will highlight unity in the student body, and all its proceeds will be donated to the relief effort.
"At the end of the day, I think it's a pretty good initiative. When you look at it, what we're selling is ‘Unity equals power,' and power is where change comes in, so it's going to have to start with a unified body," Hardy said.
While February's events are centered on the culture of African-Americans, nearly half of Armstrong's population consists of minority groups.
"The politically correct way to say it in the United States is that we are people of color or women of color," Rodriguez said. "I don't identify myself as that. I don't see myself as a minority. I see myself as an American.
 "It's awesome to see that Armstrong has embraced multiculturalism and is very diverse. I mean we are an extremely diverse campus compared to all the other campuses in the USG system.
"You see diversity of age. You see diversity of ethnicity, race and belief. Military, nonmilitary — we have so much, and it's sort of woven into the fabric of the people that make up the university."

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