Saturday, April 29, 2017

Number of Ethiopians needing food aid surges to 7.7 million due to drought - TVC NEWS

The number of Ethiopians who need food aid owing to drought has surged by more than two million from 5.6 million at the beginning of the year, an official has said.
In January, the United Nations appealed for more than $900 million in aid for the Horn of Africa country, which has been hit by repeated droughts.
Some areas of Ethiopia’s Oromiya, Amhara, and SNNP regions are now facing severe water shortages, in addition to areas where the main harvests had failed this year, said Debebe Zewdie, head of public relations at the National Disaster Risk Management Commission.
“The number has risen to more than 7.7 million people. 432,000 tonnes of food is needed until the end of the year,” he told state-owned Ethiopian News Agency.
Although it has one of the highest growth rates in Africa, Ethiopia’s economy still depends heavily on farming, which employs three-quarters of the workforce in the nation of over 90 million people.
Last year, failed spring and summer rains worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon affected 10.2 million people.
Altogether, almost 13 million people across the Horn of Africa region currently require aid, including 2.7 million in Kenya, 2.9 million in Somalia and 1.6 million in Uganda, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
In Somalia, the U.N. has warned that the country risks a repeat of the 2011 famine that killed around 260,000 people.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

US prepares military response to world-historic famine in sub-Saharan Africa, Arabian Peninsula - World Socialist Web Site

By Thomas Gaist 
Widespread and deepening famine is threatening the lives of tens of millions across large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Analysts describe the outbreak of mass hunger as completely historically unprecedented and warn that record-breaking levels of malnourishment and starvation are overwhelming the capacity of existing humanitarian infrastructure.
Tens of millions people, including 17 million Yemenis, 7 million Nigerians, 3 million Somalis and 1 million South Sudanese, are in imminent danger of dying from lack of adequate nutrition, according to United Nations (UN) estimates. Countries impacted by famine and food shortages include South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
In Somalia, where the Trump administration announced the deployment of regular US ground troops for the first time since 1994, the price of a 20-liter can of water increased from 4 to 40 cents during the past few weeks alone. Somalia is experiencing record rates of child malnutrition and faces the die off of 75 percent of its livestock, according to Save the Children.
The Yemen war, waged by the United States and Saudi Arabia since April 2015, has transformed one of the most ancient societies in the world into the ground-zero of world famine. Some 20 million Yemenis are now on the verge of starvation. The naval blockade of Yemen’s ports, enforced by American and Saudi ships, is strangling the flow of goods into a country that depends on imports for 90 percent of its food supply. The US-Saudi bombing campaign has relentlessly targeted Yemen’s social infrastructure, completely paralyzing its economy and turning 80 percent of its population into paupers. The approval by Trump of a Navy SEALs raid into Yemen, as his first official military action, has signaled his intention to expand direct US participation in the war.
The response of Africa’s national elites to the famine has been intensified social attacks against their own populations. The US-backed governments of Djibouti, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia have slashed food rations in recent months. The US-backed South Sudanese government is employing starvation as a weapon against ethnic minorities, and has “actively blocked and prevented aid access” to famine-stricken areas, the UN said.
In the teeth of a world-historic famine, instead of food deliveries, the White House is organizing expanded war throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Trump has approved “increasing American military pressure” in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Central African Republic, Chad and Somalia, according to Breitbart News, a web site with close ties to the American President.
Last week, Trump approved the sale of fighter jets to Nigeria, signaling his intention to escalate the US proxy war in Nigeria. Now in its seventh year, the war has already displaced some 2.5 million, and transformed northern Nigeria into one of the worst famine hotspots on the continent.
The American military is deploying “advisors, intelligence, training, and equipment” throughout West Africa, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander General Thomas Waldhauser announced in comments March 24.
Last week, Waldhauser hosted dozens of African military officers for discussions at the AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The purpose of the US Africa Command Chiefs of Defense (CHoD) meetings is to recruit “liaison” officers from African governments who will be permanently stationed alongside US commanders in Europe, coordinating joint US-African military operations on the continent.
AFRICOM’s military presence in Africa is geared to crush the mass social opposition to Africa’s national governments and militaries that will inevitably arise out of the famine and other manifestations of the deepening economic and social crisis.
“On the African continent, when you have, you know, the top 50 poorest countries on the planet. Obviously the migrant problem is a huge issue,” Waldhauser remarked.
The American military is “war-gaming procedures to work in a famine-type environment,” the top US Africa General said.
Aside from its role in policing the increasingly restive African population, the continuous expansion of AFRICOM’s war operations on the continent is aimed at seizing the continent’s most strategic resources and infrastructure. The huge potential profits to be coined out of the labor-power of Africa’s working class, and the untold trillions in mineral wealth buried in its lands, are greedily sought after by the American and European ruling elites. Africa has been at the center of the military and strategic aggression waged by the Western powers against the entire former colonial world since the end of the USSR.
The past two-and-a-half decades of the so-called “post-colonial” era have witnessed a renaissance of colonialism. Thousands of US and European troops and commandos now rampage freely on the continent, establishing proxy armies and organizing the toppling and murder of numerous African leaders considered insufficiently compliant with US imperialism’s line.
The alternative between socialism and a new round of imperialist barbarism is posed most starkly on the African continent, the birthplace of the human species. Only a unified mass movement of the entire African working class, leading behind it the oppressed peasantry, can drive the imperialists from the continent and resolve the urgent social problems facing the masses. Such a movement requires the building of sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the only genuine socialist leadership in existence, in every country of Africa.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Armyworms ravage crops in southern Ethiopia

Ethiopia's farming ministry said the pests have so far damaged crops in nearly 10,700 hectares of land.
An armyworm. Picture:
ADDIS ABABA – Crop-eating caterpillars known as fall armyworms have damaged crops across southern Ethiopia, the latest country to be struck by the pests in a region already struggling with widespread drought and hunger, authorities said on Thursday.
In March, Uganda confirmed that the caterpillars had attacked crops on farms in about 20 districts in the country, while neighbouring Kenya has dispatched a team of scientists and other experts to investigate reports of their appearance.
In a statement, Ethiopia's farming ministry said the pests have so far damaged crops in nearly 10,700 hectares of land in the country's Oromiya area and a region known as SNNP, short for Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People.
"Thirty-five thousand litres of chemicals have been purchased and distributed to spray affected areas with insecticide," said Zebdios Selato, the body's director for plant healthcare.
The attacks could further affect agricultural output in a country where a drought has left 5.6 million people needing food aid. Drought and conflict have put four countries in the region at risk of mass starvation - northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen - according to the UN refugee agency.
The caterpillar is native to North and South America, though it has already spread to other parts of Africa including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The United Nations fears it could reach Asia and the Mediterranean in the next few years.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How a famine happens: The tale of South Sudan - Livemint

How a famine happens: The tale of South Sudan

How a famine happens: The tale of South Sudan

Photo: Getty Images
Just what went wrong in the world's youngest country?
Romit Mehta
First Published: Sat, Apr 01 2017. 11 34 PM IST
Last month, UN agencies declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, making it the first country since Somalia in 2011 to be declared famine hit. The world's youngest nation is in the throes of a civil war that has not only created one of the pressing global internal displacement and refugee crisis, but also actively precipitated the famine. 
As pictures of jubilant celebrations in the streets of its capital, Juba, were splashed across global newspapers a day after the country’s birth in 2011, few would have imagined that the country would be reduced to such a sorry state a mere six years later. Independence was seen as a great victory for the people, who for generations were brutally oppressed by the Arab-dominated north Sudan. 
What went wrong? The answer lies in the violent, decades-long freedom struggle waged by the people of South Sudan, power lust among its principal leaders and the commodity that has made and unmade nations—oil. 
There is an old Sudanese proverb, “When god made Sudan, he laughed.” Meant to refer to the incredible riches and beauty of the land, the country's violent history imbues it with dark irony. 
Known to be home to valuable materials such as ebony and ivory since the 25th century BC, it had been a major trading partner of Egypt since Biblical times. In the following centuries, it saw the rise of Christianity, which gave way to Islam in the wake of Arab invasions. 
Over time, the northern region, famed for its gems, saw the settlement of Arab miners and merchants. The area was laid claim to by the Ottomans in the early 19th century, and subsequently, by the great European powers, particularly the British, after the opening of the Suez Canal. 
All through this, the nomadic tribes of South Sudan were taken captive by the merchants and sold, forming the crux of the Arab slave trade from the horn of Africa. Samuel Baker, a British explorer in 1862, vividly noted the role the slave trade played in the keeping Khartoum going as a bustling town. The British, who ruled Sudan jointly with the Egyptians, focused primarily on maintaining power over the north. Little interest was paid to the south, where the missionaries were allowed to operate freely. 
While the British and the Egyptians finally ceded control in 1956, the prospect of Arab-led domination of the south, which comprised mainly Christians and tribes following traditional beliefs, led to a massive revolt in 1955, a year before the formal declaration of Sudanese independence. 
This bloody uprising, known the first Sudanese civil war, lasted 17 years until 1972. After maintaining a fragile peace accord for a decade, Sudanese government’s declaration of the country as an Islamic state under the Sharia law sparked the descent into chaos again. 
The second Sudanese civil war, led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and its military wing, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, lasted 22 years until 2005, making it among the longest civil wars of the modern era. 
The cost of the two wars was brutal—more than 2.5 million people, about one-fifth of the population, died of fighting, famines, disease and displacement. 
The southern faction, led mainly by the Dinka and the Nuer, raged internal fratricidal wars as well. However, the all-consuming need to fight for independence pushed the conflict to the backburner. 
International pressure on the Sudanese government and the mounting costs of war led to a comprehensive peace agreement being adopted in 2005, which promised a referendum to the people of South Sudan after a period of six years. In 2011, when the referendum was held, the south overwhelmingly—98.83%—voted in favour of secession. On 9 July 2011, the world’s newest country was born. 
As celebrations went through the night in Juba, the newly anointed capital, there was an outpour of diplomatic euphoria. “It is a reminder that, after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible,” said then US president Barack Obama, granting the newly formed country immediate recognition. 
Yet South Sudan—with its ethnic divisions, chief among them between the Dinka (~35% of the population) and the Nuer (~16% of the population), dependence on oil to sustain the economy (about 60% of the GDP and 95% of government revenues), minimal infrastructure and high levels of militarization—was prone to falling into a conflict trap. 
In July 2013, Riek Machar, the deputy president and a member of the Nuer tribe, was dismissed by Salva Kiir, the president and a member of the Dinka tribe, on charges of plotting a coup. Efforts to disarm the Nuer presidential guards suspected of being close to Machar led to the outbreak of hostilities. 
Dinka soldiers ran amok in Juba and reportedly indulged in mass slaughter of Nuer civilians. The Machar camp retaliated and, soon enough, the country was in a state of civil war. 
Since the outbreak of hostilities, the fight has often centred on oil, leading to large-scale displacements in the two oil producing regions of Unity and Upper Nile. 
The human toll of the civil war has been punishing. According to data from the UN High Commission for Refugees, Upper Nile had about 140,000 registered refugees, followed by the Unity region where the count stood at about 100,000. However, the total number of internally displaced people is an order of magnitude higher at 1.85 million (one-sixth of the population) as per the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 
The Unity region, which is Nuer dominated and the home of Riek Machar, has been at the forefront of this violence. It alone accounts for about 45% of the total internally displaced population
While the world’s attention has focused on Syria and the concerns of leaders of Europe and the US, the horn of Africa, among the poorest regions in the world, is facing a particular strain by catering to almost a million refugees, mainly arising from South Sudan and Somalia. 
Ethiopia has borne a lion’s share of this burden, hosting close to 750,000 refugees, making it the fifth highest refugee destination in the world. 
The human toll of the war in South Sudan has been compounded by the economic consequences which has been disastrous for the country. 
Its oil production, the lifeblood of the economy, has seen a precipitous decline. From a high of half a million barrels of oil production per day in 2011, South Sudan now pumps a quarter of that at 130,000 barrels per day. 
With the government's resources rapidly drying up, exchange rates have deteriorated sharply, sending prices soaring and the economy into a tailspin (see chart below). The hyperinflationary conditions have ensured basic necessities are either unavailable or simply unaffordable to the locals. 
Large-scale displacement due to conflict has worsened the impact of soaring inflation. Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglie (another critically affected province) contain 40% of the country’s total cropland
With the population almost entirely dependent on agriculture, large-scale displacement has wreaked havoc in local ecosystems and the agricultural economy, affecting supply and access. 
The geographic, economic and political conditions have created the vortex that has thrown South Sudan towards this man-made famine. 
As seen in this figure, the situation is grim across the country, with 100,000 people in Unity state facing starvation due to famine. Close to a million are on the brink of a famine and almost half the population, 5 million, is at crisis levels of food insecurity and worse. 
The declaration of famine is not a straightforward act. It is made collectively by multiple parties: the affected country’s government, agencies of the UN and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, set up by the US government in 1980s to collect and analyse data from various sources. 
Given the multiplicity of parties, there are always multiple viewpoints to contend with. Moreover, the declaration itself contains political undertones and implications. Countries often find it hard to outlive the international stigma of a famine. A case in point is Ethiopia. Famine in 1980s and its media coverage has saddled the country with a misplaced reputation of mass poverty, even though it is presently the fastest growing economy globally
The second challenge is that of data itself. Officially, famine is declared when the following three criteria are met: 
• At least one in five households face extreme lack of food
• Thirty per cent or more of the population suffers from acute malnutrition 
• At least 2 in every 10,000 people are dying each day 
Given the specificity of the requirements and challenges of data collection in an unstable region, UN agencies and the country's government have to be convinced that the situation has indeed escalated enough to deserve worldwide attention. This happens to be the case in South Sudan. The fact that famine has been declared implies that people have already started dying of starvation. 
The response has been on expected lines, with relief agencies stepping up their involvement. WFP (the World Food Programme) has been airdropping supplies in affected areas, the Food and Agriculture Organization is giving survival kits and Unicef has set up hundreds of feeding centres to cater to kids facing malnutrition using ready to use therapeutic foods such as peanut-based wonder snack Plumpy’nut
President Kiir has promised unimpeded access to humanitarian efforts to ensure that supplies reach the ones in need. Yet, the humanitarian agencies are nowhere close to reaching their target of $1.6 billion to provide lifesaving assistance to an identified population of 5.8 million. The conflict itself shows no sign of abating, with Riek Machar, currently exiled from South Sudan, continuing to direct opposition forces remotely from South Africa.
Amartya Sen in his seminal work Development as Freedom made a powerful argument that functioning democracies do not see famines due to the pressures of electorate faced by democratic governments. 
The idea went on to change the prism through which famines were viewed. An example in India illustrates the contours of this argument. Bihar faced a situation of food shortage in 1966. Monsoon failure led to harvest season yields being only 50% of what was estimated. 
In response, the government declared a state of famine. Keeping in mind the general elections scheduled for the next year, the government and the state machinery mounted an impressive response. 
Large-scale feeding, income-assistance programmes and work-for-food initiatives were undertaken. At the end of it, a major catastrophe was averted and the number of recorded deaths stood at about 2,300, a remarkable achievement for a poor and relatively nascent state. 
In 1974, political upheavals faced by the Awami League in Bangladesh, following the initial years of independence, led the economy into a decline and caused a sharp spike in in prices of basics. Flooding in the same year led to massive food shortages, and eventually, famine was declared. 
Multiple coup attempts were made and, by 1975, Bangladesh was under a martial law. Limited state capacity, low levels of accountability, and political instability led to an insufficient response which resulted in a loss of about 40,000 lives from starvation and famine-related diseases. 
State capacity and functioning political system in a way, proved to be the ultimate differentiator. As conflict continues unabated in South Sudan, its leaders have the choice of the path they want to lead their country towards. One hopes that the right choice is made soon. Millions of lives hang in the balance. 
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