USAID Responds to the Horn of Africa Drought

Posted by Rajiv Shah
July 21, 2011

This morning, the United Nations declared what has become plain to anyone who has witnessed the devastation caused by this epic drought: thousands of people in southern Somalia are currently in a state of famine.

After the announcement, I visited the Wajir and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. I saw child after child weary from their long journey to the camps, eager for their first meal in days if not weeks. Seeing a child in such a fragile state -- witnessing just one child face such difficult circumstances -- is heartbreaking. Knowing that millions of children face a similar fate in the coming months unleashes a sense of profound sorrow.

Dadaab is now the fourth largest city in Kenya, home to more than 370,000 people who were in such a state of need that they fled their homes, many on foot, many from hundreds of miles away, just to find food, water, and healthcare for themselves and their children.

But the other thing I witnessed in those children was a strong sense of resilience. They weren't beaten down by their circumstances or overcome with despair. They were courageous, strong, unwilling to succumb to the tragedy that surrounded them.

Throughout the region, more than 11.5 million people are in need of emergency assistance, and there is no quick fix to that need. The United States, in cooperation with all of its international partners, is doing everything it can to help relieve that suffering with food, water, healthcare, and other critical services. Our priority is to save lives, and our experts are working day and night to find every channel possible to provide that desperately needed assistance.

For years, we've been working with the Ethiopian government on a safety net program that has step by step improved food security for many living in areas vulnerable to drought.

Even in this record drought, due to that long-term effort, 8.3 million people that have benefited from this program today do not need emergency assistance. Since October 2010, the U.S. Government has provided $459 million in life-saving aid to over 4.4 million people in the eastern Horn.

But that is no comfort today to those who have no food or water for their children, or for themselves. We must implement long-term strategies that can help prevent this kind of suffering once and for all.

The President's Feed the Future initiative is designed to partner with countries like Ethiopia and Kenya to develop their own agricultural industries, helping them break free of the need for humanitarian food aid. Only through a long-term sustained investment in their own food security can these countries escape the vicious cycle of famine of food aid we've once again witnessed.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears on the USAID Impact Blog. You can learn more about the crisis in the Horn of Africa here.



Fillmon T.
July 26, 2011

Fillmon in Canada writes:

Mr. Carson's self serving remarks that "there are many more in need in Eritrea, where a repressive regime is refusing to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its people" are thoroughly disgusting and reprehensible. They are driven by politics, specifically the state dept./US administration's animosity towards the Eritrean Government which has been at odds with the US. It is not out of genuine compassion for Eritreans that may or may not be impacted by this terrible drought afflicting the horn. This is after all the same person/dept that is currently pushing for increasing the sanctions against Eritrea, specifically targeting the very little foreign income Eritrea earns from it's diaspora remittances and it's nascent mining industry/revenues. So his claim that the US is genuinely interested in helping Eritreans "feed themselves" is hollow and duplicitous in light of the fact that it wants to target Eritrea's economy, and any meager revenue it stands to generate and that could help it feed itself and improve it's economy and the lives of it's people. Mr. Carson and the state dept should be ashamed of their disgusting and reprehensible behavior.

Right now there are tens of thousands of Eritreans from Europe, North America, Middle east, Australia etc in Eritrea, traveling throughout the country. My brother was just there a few weeks and traveled freely throughout several towns and cities. There is no famine/starvation in Eritrea. If there was you would have heard about it loud and clear.

Mr. Carson and the US state Dept's hatred and animosity towards the Eritrean government/Eritrea is deplorable!

United States
July 22, 2011

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

While the world's "worst humanitarian disaster" is unfolding in the Horn of Africa, with eleven million people in dire need of food, global leaders who are quick to intervene in countries militarily, are a bit slow to get involved in saving them.

The UK has pledged £38 million in aid to Ethiopia, while it has committed £260 million so far, to bomb Libya.

The US is spent $459 million in aid while spending over $1 trillion in wars against nearby nations and their desert dwellers.

Are these people more valuable dead than they are alive? Which has greater priority, bombing them or feeding them?

Why not save a few trillion dollars and leave the desert people alone?

What if, just for the sake of neutrality, we ask NATO to stop bombing Libya and allow Libya to recover before Libya becomes a failed state in need of emergency aid as well?

fiesta c.
July 26, 2011

Fiesta in Ethiopia writes:

Help Us Save Lives in Drought-Stricken East Africa | WFP | United Nations World Food Programme - Fig...

With famine in southern Somalia and more than 11 million people in desperate need of food assistance in the region, countless lives hang in the balance. Just 50 US cents per day is enough to feed a hungry child or mother on the edge of survival.


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