United Nations downgrades some famine zones
World Vision welcomes the news that the famine is easing in parts of Somalia. The United Nations has officially downgraded the situation in Bakaool, lower Shabelle and Bay. At the peak of the crisis, malnutrition was affecting 53 per cent of the population in some areas of Somalia; now, that figure has fallen below the famine threshold of 30 per cent. But although conditions have begun to improve in the Horn of Africa for some, challenges remain great for the families who live there and the aid workers trying to respond.
Recently a fifth refugee camp has been opened for displaced populations from Somalia. There are now more than 4 million internally displaced people and 1.5 million refugees, a number that has grown 13 per cent since April 2011.
Over the last three months, World Vision has helped more 620,000 vulnerable children and their families in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania: providing critical food, blankets and mosquito nets; supplying medical help and clean water; and building sanitation facilities. But there are many who still need basic life-saving intervention.
“The situation is still dire as we see many children still in need of food, health support and other kinds of humanitarian aid,” said Dr. Charles Owubah, World Vision East Africa’s Regional Leader. “A lot has been achieved, but more still needs to be done for the families that have been forced to leave their homes. World Vision is dedicated to meeting the most urgent needs of Somali families as they seek refuge from the terrible conditions.”
Security concerns in border areas between Somalia and the neighbouring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia continue to increase, hampering and even preventing aid from reaching those who need it. Meanwhile, the rainy reason, which brought some relief to parched areas, has also made transportation by air difficult, as planes cannot land on soft ground. This means World Vision staff often has to travel by car or truck to reach remote locations, a process that can take as much as three days. The rain has also meant deadly flooding in parts of Kenya, driving tens of thousands of people from their homes and creating a dangerous situation for livestock.
“While the rains have come and are a blessing and source of hope to especially the most affected, they will not translate into better food security until after three to four months,” said Stuart Katwikirize, World Vision’s humanitarian and emergency affairs director in East Africa.
Looking forward, World Vision will continue providing short-term emergency aid and long-term development work in the Horn of Africa. To prevent the reoccurring problem of drought from turning into the tragedy of famine in the future, World Vision is actively working to make communities more resilient by providing seeds and training, replacing livestock and creating cash-for-work programs to allow people to purchase food in their communities. Staff members are also working to create new wells and water catchment structures, in addition to latrines, to make sure people have access to clean, safe water.