Responding to the Horn of Africa DroughtBy Frederick S.

Responding to the Horn of Africa Drought

By Frederick S.

Published on Thu, Aug 18 2011 by Frederick S.
  Geographically, the horn of Africa spans a region that includes sections of five African countries: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya. It is  one of the most famine-prone zones in the world due to frequent droughts and wars. The region is currently experiencing its worst drought in 60 years, leaving 12 million people in serious need of food. 
 
Some disaster management analysts cite a number of reasons for the slow response to Somalia and others compared to, say, that for the Haiti earthquake. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has managed to raise $6 million to date towards relief effort in for the Horn of Africa drought, compared to the $45 million the Fund raised for Haiti in a comparable timeframe. Donor fatigue has been cited as a major reason why money has not been flowing as freely as would have been desired. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Pakistani floods, and other global challenges have occured since Haiti, and some experts opine that aid-givers have become jaded to these disasters.
 
A second reason for the slow response is that Somala does not invoke a cuddly image in the minds of donors. Somali pirates' kidnapping for ransom of crew members of vessels that ply the Aden route has contributed to this image. Some donors also associate Somalia with Al-Shabab, an Islamist group with ties to Al-qaeeda, that controls significant portions of southern Somalia, and this reduces willingness to reach into purses.  
 
A final reason is that the impact of a drought, which may take several weeks or months to hit dire levels, does not hit donors with the same momentum as the instantaneous chaos of an earthquake or some other natural disaster.
 
But hope may not be too far off. Vodacom South Africa is mobilising its extensive subscriber base to raise funds. On August 11, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham a $17 million aid package to bolster humanitarian efforts in Somalia and Ethiopia. The most heartwarming story is that of a 11-year old Ghanaian schoolboy who, after being moved by the compelling images of starving Somali infants, has launched a campaign to raise $13 million. One can only hope that African institutions like African Union, as well as individual countries and institutions within them, would take a cue from the lad and come out with similar initiatives to save their fellow Africans. 
 

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