Thursday, March 30, 2017

Subcommittee Chairman Smith's Opening Statement at Hearing on East Africa’s Quiet Famine

Subcommittee Chairman Smith's Opening Statement at Hearing on East Africa’s Quiet Famine - YouTube: ""

IOM: Humanitarian agencies prepare for increased displacement of drought-affected Somalis into Ethiopia -

Humanitarian agencies prepare for increased displacement of drought-affected Somalis into Ethiopia

Ethiopia, Mar 25 : As severe food insecurity continues to rise due to the worsening drought, thousands of Somalis are being forced to leave their homes in search of water, food and pasture. The Government of Ethiopia and the humanitarian community are planning for the potential arrival of 50,000 Somalis in the border regions of Ethiopia.
Somalia is currently experiencing a drought, which could lead to famine only six years after a devastating famine killed nearly 260,000 people in 2011. Humanitarian agencies estimate that there are 6.2 million drought-affected Somalis in need of assistance, including food, water, sanitation services, healthcare, nutrition, protection and shelter.

While needs are widespread, areas with little humanitarian access such as Bay and Bakool are especially affected, as many are forced to walk for days seeking assistance, food and water.

We have received news of Somalis arriving at the Ethiopian border extremely distressed and malnourished, said Gerry Waite, IOM Somalia Chief of Mission.

IOM is scaling up lifesaving operations along the drought-stricken Ethiopia-Somalia border, where thousands are at risk of disease and death. Thus far in 2017, IOM Ethiopia has transported over 4,000 Somalis from border entry points to displacement camps in Dollo Ado, where they are received and given access to lifesaving services.

IOM and other humanitarian partners continue to seek resources to support the emergency shelter needs of drought-displaced families.

IOM remains ready to assist vulnerable individuals crossing the Somalia-Ethiopia border, and appeals to the donor community for their support in helping people forced from their homes by drought, said Maureen Achieng, IOM Ethiopia Chief of Mission.

Drought is also affecting Ethiopia low rainfall is predicted for the southern, eastern and north-eastern parts of the country. The Humanitarian Requirement Document 2017, produced jointly by the Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners, estimates a total of 376,000 internally displaced persons as a result of the drought.

Initial projections of displacement figures are now expected to be much higher due to the severity of the drought. IOM Ethiopias Displacement Tracking Matrix has identified over 126,000 individuals internally displaced as a result of the drought since the beginning of 2017.

IOM recently launched its 2017 Somalia Drought Appeal. It was developed to enhance current response, and expand the UN Migration Agencys geographic footprint within the country to help those most affected by the drought. IOM teams on the ground are rapidly scaling up ongoing interventions in the fields of health, shelter, water and sanitation, protection and food security.

IOM is also increasing its displacement tracking capacity in Somalia and Ethiopia to allow for real time updates to better inform humanitarian response and planning. The activities presented in the Somalia Drought Appeal include and build on the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and UN OCHAs Pre-Famine Operational Plan (January-June 2017), that target the countrys most critical lifesaving needs.

Photo: IOM / Mary-Sanyu Osire


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Learn Liberty | Famine is about freedom, not just food

Are famines just things of the past? In the ancient world, a bad harvest threatened lives. The agricultural output of the world has dramatically increased in the last couple hundred years, and today, the Earth supports billions of healthy people thanks to advances in farm technology and global trade. Where individuals are relatively free from violence and have access to global markets, widespread starvation is not a problem today. Healthy food staples are cheap. And, in an emergency, there is a lot of goodwill out there, such that a community with a free press and open markets will receive aid.
Fortunately, most humans today do not live and die by whether rain happens to fall on their farm. Today, episodes of mass starvation only occur when people are oppressed by authoritarian government regimes or gang violence organized on a smaller scale.
The latest tragedy is in South Sudan, which the U.N. has now officially declared to be a famine. In a Washington Post article on March 9, George Clooney declared the famine in South Sudan to be “government-made,” not only to distinguish it from natural causes such as the weather but squarely point the finger of blame at the administration in the capital of Juba.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has pointed out that functioning democracies do not have famines. In free societies, a government so inept as to create mass starvation would be voted out. The accountability provided by a free electorate and free press incentivize politicians to respond to the needs of the people. The problem is not that authoritarian governments do too little to prevent famines, it’s that they do too much to cause famines.
The famines of the 20th century dwarfed the infamous “Irish potato famine” of the mid-19th century. In China, tens of millions starved under the rule of Mao Zedong. The Communist regime in the Soviet Union oversaw several famines in which many millions starved, including the mass starvation known as the Holodomor in Ukraine. These famine events were sometimes associated with bad weather, but droughts do not cause famines. Only violence could cause a bad harvest to turn into mass starvation in the modern world.
In 1931, there was a lot of food being grown in Ukraine, but the Soviet government took the food by force and left almost none behind to feed the farmers. Another kind of government oppression that made the situation worse, in this case, was the suppression of free speech and free press. The Soviets denied that anyone was starving and censored unfavorable reports, making it less likely that aid would come in from the international community. Aided by Western journalists friendly to Stalin, the Soviets effectively clouded the issue of famine in Ukraine.
The most widespread famine to affect Ethiopia in the past century lasted from 1983 to 1985. The government at the time had violently attacked the people of Ethiopia and moved them around in collectivization schemes. An already poor country was rendered helpless through government intervention and corruption. A campaign of misinformation allowed government officials to profit from the international aid that was sent from rich countries, while the government withheld donated food from areas of the country where the people were not supportive of the regime.
The most recent famine is now occurring in South Sudan. The people of South Sudan used to have productive resources with which to feed themselves, but soldiers representing both the government and rebel forces have raided villages and destroyed the means of production, such as cattle, leaving the people to starve. In his article, Clooney expresses cautious hope that foreign aid will be allowed to reach the victims of the famine, but he acknowledges that aid is a short-term fix. Famines will continue until the government is held accountable for corruption and abuse. Clooney is thinking like an economist, because he is talking about incentives, not intentions.
Soon after the Western world was alerted to the severity of the famine in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir hiked the fee for work permits for foreign aid workers from $100 to $10,000. Perhaps that change is small in comparison with the violent attacks against aid workers perpetrated by government soldiers, but it does indicate how the government views the famine victims.
Economic freedom for individuals and the protection of property rights is the reason that famines do not occur in democracies today, as Amartya Sen documented in his book Development as Freedom. Hunger isn’t just about food – it’s about freedom.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

This program has fed 40 million kids in the world’s poorest places. Trump wants to get rid of it - The Washington Post


Former senator Bob Dole, a pillar of the Republican Party and a staunch supporter of President Trump during his campaign, has accused the president of threatening “one of the proudest achievements of my lifetime” — by cutting a program that has provided school meals to more than 40 million children in some of the world's poorest countries.
The McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, a bipartisan aid enterprise championed by Dole and his Democratic Senate colleague George McGovern in the early aughts, was a casualty of the White House budget proposal released last Thursday.
Since 2003, McGovern-Dole has provided school meals in 40 of the world's most impoverished nations, including several that are currently approaching famine.
Trump's budget recommended eliminating the program, however, citing concerns that it “lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented.”
“Eliminating the McGovern-Dole program would have a disastrous effect on the planet’s most vulnerable children,” Dole wrote in a statement provided exclusively to The Washington Post. “Without a reliable source of nutrition, these children face a lifetime of stunted physical and mental development and unrealized opportunity. This global school meals program remains one of the proudest achievements of my lifetime. It embodies the very best of America’s values. Saving this program means saving lives. It’s as simple as that.”
Other food aid veterans were quick to praise the program.
“I think the program is working very well. And it seems mean-spirited to end it,” said Dan Glickman, the former secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton.
Relative to other foreign aid programs, McGovern-Dole is both small and narrowly tailored: The Department of Agriculture requested $182 million to fund it this year, with the bulk of that money going toward commodity purchases and grants.
That is on par with the cost of Food for Progress, a USDA foreign-aid program designed to boost local agriculture, which requested $175 million for 2017. It is minor compared with the food aid programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which took a 28 percent cut in President Trump’s proposed budget. USAID requested $1.35 billion for its Food for Peace Title II program alone, which provides commodities in countries facing emergencies such as wars or famines. Still, experts say McGovern-Dole is significant.
Each year, the USDA identifies a number of countries that would make good candidates for the peacetime program — countries that suffer high rates of food insecurity and illiteracy but have stable and education-invested governments. McGovern-Dole then awards monetary grants and commodities on a competitive basis to third-party organizations with existing humanitarian infrastructures, such as the United Nations World Food Programme. Those organizations administer the program on the ground, providing daily meals, and related logistical support, to local schoolchildren.
“McGovern-Dole can be transformative in the communities where we work,” said Steve Taravella, a spokesman for the World Food Programme. “These are children who, in most cases, would have no full meal except the one that McGovern-Dole gives them.”
The program is not intended merely as food aid, however: It has also historically stressed education and community health. Providing meals at school increases school attendance rates, particularly among girls whose parents might otherwise see more value in keeping them home to do domestic work. As such, McGovern-Dole doesn’t only track how many kids it has fed but also how many kids went to school, received medications and learned to read as a result of the program.
“We’ve found that school meals are a wonderful incentive to get students, especially girls, to come to school,” Taravella said.
WFP is one of 11 organizations that has funding through McGovern-Dole. It runs McGovern-Dole school-feeding programs in 14 countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
In Ethiopia, WFP operates in the Afar and Somali districts of Ethiopia, where it provides daily portions of corn-soy porridge, plus transportation and logistic assistance, to 263,000 students. According to a February 2016 evaluation by the USDA, the program has increased school enrollment in Somali from 64 percent to nearly 100, and in Afar from 35 percent to 60 percent. Enrollment by gender also approached parity in the schools the program targeted: up to 95 girls for every 100 boys, compared with nine girls for every 100 boys in schools where there was no intervention.
In Kenya — another WFP country — McGovern-Dole has provided more than $67 million since 2008, providing meals for 700,000 children annually. A 2015 report on the project, produced by an outside auditor for WFP and the USDA, found that the meals had improved school attendance, and that students got roughly a third of their daily calories from them. The program had also begun transferring administration over to the Kenyan government.
“The benefits of the McGovern-Dole program go well beyond reducing the level of food insecurity among children in developing countries,” Dole wrote. “... Because it’s designed to graduate to local community control, the McGovern-Dole program is building more sustainable communities empowered with their own tools to fight hunger.”
That is significant, given that both Ethiopia and Kenya face an impending food crisis as a historic drought drags on in East Africa. USAID has declared a “food crisis” in parts of both countries and a “food emergency” — the designation just below famine — to wide swaths of neighboring South Sudan. In that country, as well as Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria, more than 20 million people face starvation, according to the United Nations.
Without McGovern-Dole funding, the school-feeding projects in both Ethiopia and Kenya will be much smaller, Taravella said. That concerns both Taravella and other nongovernmental organizations that partner with McGovern-Dole. Project Concern International, which administers McGovern-Dole programs in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Tanzania, issued a statement about Trump’s proposed budget on Thursday.
“U.S. investments have contributed to the largest reductions in extreme poverty ever recorded in human history,” chief executive Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “The Administration’s proposed budget cut to lifesaving health, food security, and humanitarian programs will compromise the development gains of recent years and weaken our own security and global leadership.”
That isn’t to say that McGovern-Dole is a flawless program — few programs are, said Glickman, the former agriculture secretary. In 2011, the program was audited by the Government Accountability Office, which found that the USDA had not done enough to evaluate and monitor its partner organizations. It has also been criticized by conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, which say that it duplicates the efforts of other, USAID-run food programs, and by some conservative lawmakers, who have said that it “is not tied to a specific national security interest.”
But champions of McGovern-Dole argue that it does not overlap with other programs because of its narrow focus on school meals and its aim to improve both nutrition and literacy. That is unique among U.S. food aid programs, which generally address these issues separately.
And aside from the humanitarian issues inherent in canceling a major food aid program, several of the countries served by McGovern-Dole are strategic allies of the United States, noted Kimberly Flowers, the director of the Global Food Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Kenya and Ethiopia border Somalia, the base for the militant group al-Shabab. Boko Haram, another militant group, began in Nigeria and has since ventured out to other countries in West Africa.
The United States doesn’t need those countries only as partners in the war on terrorism, Flowers said, it also needs their civil societies to remain stable. That’s undermined by issues like food insecurity.
“When we improve nutrition overseas, we improve our own national security,” Flowers said. “It’s all interconnected. But this administration doesn’t seem to get those linkages.”
Even if food aid is not a priority to Trump, however, McGovern-Dole may not necessarily be axed. The final budget will be passed by Congress — and lawmakers face a lot of pressure to preserve the program. The farming community has long supported it, said Bob Young, the chief economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation. It’s also backed by a broad coalition of charities and religious groups, including Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services and Bread for the World.
“It has had strong bipartisan support every year, and it still does,” Glickman said. “Look, it’s a program that promotes the ending of extreme poverty. … My guess is Congress will not approve attempts to end it.”
More from Wonkblog:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Facing famine - millions in need of food

A woman holds out a bowl of partially boiled maize in South Sudan's Unity State
A woman holds out a bowl of partially boiled maize in South Sudan's Unity State
The world is facing an historic and horrendous challenge.
The UN says famine is threatening humankind in a way not seen since World War II, when the Nazis' scorched-earth tactics devastated Europe.
As people die, aid agencies appeal for action. But many are concerned that not enough is being done or will be done to avert another man-made disaster.

Where is famine threatening?
There are four countries at immediate risk of famine.
Three are in Africa, including one - South Sudan - where famine has already been declared.
The others are Somalia, the northeast of Nigeria and, across the Red Sea, Yemen.
UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien says that more than 20 million people are facing starvation.
He told the Security Council that "without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death". UNICEF has already warned that 1.4 million of these could be children.

What is famine?
A boy is checked for signs of malnutrition in Somalia
"International warning systems classify hunger under five categories of severity, from food secure (phase one) to famine (phase five)", explains Eoghan Rice, Trócaire's Head of Communications.
It is important to bear in mind that by the time the UN calls a famine, people are already dying in large numbers.
The four countries most at risk are in danger of reaching phase five, and falling into a human catastrophe, or famine.
This involves at least a fifth of households having absolutely no food, and more than two people per 10,000 dying each day.
States of emergency have also been declared in Kenya and Ethiopia, but they are not expected to reach famine levels.
"Huge areas in the belt of land across southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya are classified as being in crisis (phase three) due to drought," Mr Rice says. "Even at phase three level, the needs are enormous and massive international aid will be required over the coming months."

What causes famine?
Famine is the result of several failures happening at the same time:
- Not enough food is produced.
- People have difficulty accessing what food there is.
- National and international authorities - government and donors - fail in their responses to the escalating crisis.
"Time is running out for more than a million children," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said recently.
"We can still save many lives. The severe malnutrition and looming famine are largely man-made."
And that is the key. These crises are created by violence and neglect, and they can be tackled. "Our common humanity demands faster action", appealed Mr Lake.
"Conflict is a major driver of the food insecurity and threat of famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria", explains Feargal O'Connell, Concern Worldwide Regional Director for the Horn of Africa.
"Kenya and Ethiopia are countries, by and large, at peace. This is why they are suffering the same extreme climatic conditions - extreme drought - as say Somalia, but we are not seeing the same level of need.
"There is a significant food crisis in both countries and we are very concerned about the outlook especially if the upcoming rains should fail. However, with peace and a viable partner in the government in both countries, it is possible to avert a catastrophe."

Greatest challenge since WWII
"We stand at a critical point in history," Stephen O'Brien told the Security Council on Friday.
"Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations".
That means more people are at risk of famine than anytime in over seven decades. ie beyond living memory for the vast majority of people. The UN was founded in 1945.
Mr O'Brien says that we can change this; we can avert disaster. How? By raising over €4bn in a matter of months.
Here is a brief glimpse of the inhuman and degrading conditions being endured by people in those four countries.

People collect water from a donating source in Yemen
Ongoing, widespread war has reduced incomes, yet food prices remain high meaning poorer households cannot get enough food.
As well as destroying livelihoods, conflict restricts humanitarian access and damages the economy, preventing the country from importing the food people need to survive.

South Sudan
Famine has recently been declared in parts of Unity State in the northern central part of the country.
The government has collapsed, as have most institutions, amid a bloody civil war that has driven 2.5m people from their homes.
Again the familiar theme: "This crisis is man-made, the direct consequence of a conflict prolonged by South Sudanese leaders who are unwilling to put aside political ambitions for the good of their people," according to Mark C Toner of the US State Department.
Women carry food bags after visiting an aid distribution centre in Unity State

The rampant violence inflicted on the population by the Boko Haram group of fanatical Islamists continues to force many to flee their homes in large numbers, meaning they cannot earn money or access markets.
Despite improved humanitarian access in some areas, large parts of the northeast remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors and continue to face an elevated risk of famine.
A woman holds her baby during a check-up at a feeding centre in northeastern Nigeria

Decades of conflict have wrecked Somalia.
Almost half the population, over 6m people, are facing acute food insecurity and urgently need help.
(Video shows women and children in Somalia who rely on the World Food Programme to save them from starvation)
Drought has the country in its grip, and that is expected to continue, certainly in the short term.
In the main cereal-producing regions in the south, less than 40% of the cultivated land is expected to be harvested.
Surviving livestock are in poor condition, which means they produce less milk.
And it is not just rural areas in difficulty. Ongoing evictions and the pressures of internally displaced people are adding to the building crises in cities and other urban centres.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

World Bank Group mobilises to save Nigeria, Ethiopia, others from impending famine ▷ NAIJ.COM

- The World Bank Group is set to mobilise immediate response for people threatened by famine in Nigeria and five other countries
- World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, said the five other countries include Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen
- He revealed that the World Bank is working towards a financial package of more than $1.6 billion to build social protection systems
The World Bank group is set to mobilise immediate response for people threatened by famine in Nigeria and five other countries.
World Bank Group mobilises to save Nigeria, Ethiopia, others from impending famine
World Bank Group mobilises to save Nigeria, Ethiopia, others from impending famine
World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, who made this known in a statement posted on the organisation’s website on Wednesday March 8, said the five other countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.
Premium Times reports that the Nigerian government had earlier denied that there was any prospect of famine across the country, but indicated the Boko Haram-raved north-eastern Nigeria could be affected.
Mr Kim, who noted that the World bank’s first priority was to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water, disclosed that millions of lives are at risk and will die if nothing is done quickly to put the crisis under control.
“Famine is a stain on our collective conscience. Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively,” the World Bank boss noted.
He revealed that the World Bank is working towards a financial package of more than $1.6 billion to build social protection systems, strengthen community resilience, and maintain service delivery to the most vulnerable.
This, according to him, includes existing operations of over $870 million that will help communities threatened by famine.
“I am also working with our Board of Directors to secure the approval of new operations amounting to $770 million, funded substantially through IDA’s Crisis Response Window,” he added.
The World Bank boss, however, said that the international community must recognise that famine will have lasting impacts on people’s health, ability to learn and earn a living, adding that the organisation will continue to work with communities to reclaim their livelihoods and build resilience to future shocks.
“We are coordinating closely with the UN and other partners in all areas of our response,” he said.
“We know that resolution to this acute crisis will not be possible without all humanitarian and development actors working together.
“We call on the international community to respond robustly and quickly to the UN global appeal for resources for the famine.
“To prevent crises in the future, we must invest in addressing the root causes and drivers of fragility today and help countries build institutional and societal resilience.”
In January, a report by the Famine Early Warning System Network, FEWS NET, an agency supported by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, had said that due to persistent conflict, severe drought and economic instability, Nigeria and three other countries faced a credible risk of famine in 2017.
The report had noted that the Boko Haram crisis continues to contribute to large scale population displacement, limit market activity, and restrict normal livelihoods, especially in north-east Nigeria.
The report came two months after the presidency warned Nigerians of a likelihood of famine if the excess export of Nigerian grains was not checked.
”Huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian food across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of grains by January next year,” presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu had said in November 2016.
"In February, famine hit a part of South Sudan, marking the first announcement of its kind since 2011. Yemen, northern Nigeria and Somalia are also on the brink of famine", analysts said.

15 killed, dozens missing in Ethiopia garbage dump landslide | Arab News

15 killed, dozens missing in Ethiopia garbage dump landslide

ADDIS ABABA: Officials and residents say 15 people have been killed in a landslide at a massive garbage dump on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital, and several dozen people are missing.
Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma says 15 bodies have been recovered since the landslide Saturday night at the Koshe Garbage Landfill.
The landslide has buried several makeshift homes and concrete buildings. The landfill has been a dumping ground for the capital’s garbage for more than 50 years.
Resident Assefa Teklemahimanot tells The Associated Press that the resumption of garbage dumping at the site in recent months likely caused the landslide. The dumping had stopped in recent years but resumed after nearby farmers blocked dumping in their area.
Assefa says about 150 people were at the site when the landslide occurred.