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Oxfam’s largest-ever African appeal as 12 million in need

7/05/2011 1:39:05 AM

THE charities Oxfam and Save The Children today launched emergency appeals to help millions of people facing starvation in East Africa.

Both aid organisations are appealing for urgent funds to respond to the massive food shortage crisis affecting 12 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, which the UN has called East Africa’s worst drought in 60 years.

In historically the largest of its Africa appeals, Oxfam announced it needs £50m to reach three million people in dire need of clean water, food and basic sanitation.

Save The Children has appealed for £40m in order to get lifesaving help to thousands of Kenyan and Somali children.

With no rain due until late September, a deadly combination of failed rains and soaring global food prices has left more than nine million people – more than half children – in remote areas without enough food and water.

And more than a quarter of children in the worst-hit parts of Kenya are now dangerously malnourished, and in Somalia malnutrition rates have reached 30% in some areas, making East Africa one of the hungriest places on earth.

Chris Johnes, head of Oxfam Cymru, said: “This is the worst food crisis of the 21st century and we are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost. Two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have pushed 12 million people into a fight for survival.

“People have already lost virtually everything and the crisis is only going to get worse over the coming months – we need funds to help us reach people with lifesaving food and water.”

Matt Croucher, Save The Children’s regional emergency manager for East Africa, said: “We can stop this tragedy unfolding, but we only have half the money we need. We urgently need to raise the rest so we can save more children’s lives.”

The epicentre of the drought has hit the poorest people in the region in an area straddling the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where families rely heavily on livestock for survival.

In some parts, up to 60% of their herds have already died while the remainder are either sick or dangerously underweight. The price of animals has plummeted by half while the cost of cereals has soared. In Somalia the price of a main staple sorghum has risen by 240% since this time last year.

Alun McDonald, from Cardiff, is Oxfam’s media and communications officer for the Horn, East and Central Africa.

Kenya-based Mr McDonald told the Western Mail: “In Turkana in Kenya where we work, more than a third of the people are badly malnourished as a result of the crisis, which is more than double the level considered to be an emergency.

“We are seeing a lot of refugees coming from Somalia over the border into Kenya. The refugee camp in the north east of Kenya is the biggest in the world, and terribly overcrowded. It was built for 90,000 people, but we have got 360,000 people.

“There is a lot of strain on water supply – at the moment there are about 10,000 people a week arriving from Somalia.

“In Somalia you have the drought but you also have the conflict which has been going on for nearly 20 years, so lots of the country is inaccessible not just to aid agencies but also parts of the country that can grow food.

“It’s not able to be transported to the areas that are suffering – the roads are too dangerous, the trucks can’t get through.”

Mr McDonald, who has seen many animal carcasses alongside village roads, said: “People rely on their cattle, the cattle get too weak, the weaker they get the less they are worth – it makes it even harder to buy food, as food prices are going up.”

Cardiff-based photojournalist Glenn Edwards has been to Africa nearly 80 times, with his last visit to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, in January. He said: “There was talk about problems but it wasn’t actually as bad as it is now.”

Glenn’s first African expedition was to Somalia in the early 1990s, when the country suffered a drought. It was around a fortnight before the Battle of Mogadishu, which was depicted in the film Black Hawk Down.

He said: “If it gets to that situation it’s just going to be horrific.

“To see bodies where they have just been left, to see a Red Crescent wagon literally every morning in a place called Baidoa, going down the street picking up bodies, people coming out of their homes carrying their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, whoever, and just putting them on the back of a wagon, to bury these bodies in mass graves.”

He added: “If aid goes to places like Kenya or Ethiopia, people from Somalia will be rushing up to the borders.

“That may cause problems through numbers. But I am sure the work that will be done in Ethiopia and in Kenya will definitely help the situation.”


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SRC: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/07/05/oxfam-s-largest-ever-african-appeal-as-12-million-in-need-91466-28993639/


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