Burundi / Drought / Drylands / East Africa / Ethiopia / Food Security / Human Health / Kenya / Middle East / News clipping / Nigeria / Rwanda / Somalia / South Sudan / Tanzania / Uganda / West Africa

Local wars and bad water—the real killers threatening 20 million people in not 1 but 4 drought-hit countries

Turkana herders (photo credit: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters via totallycoolpix.com).

‘. . . Another famine is about to tighten its grip on Somalia. And it’s not the only crisis that aid agencies are scrambling to address.

For the first time since anyone can remember, there is a very real possibility of four famines—in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen—breaking out at once, endangering more than 20 million lives.

‘International aid officials say they are facing one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II. And they are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

One powerful lesson from the last famine in Somalia, just six years ago, was that famines were not simply about food. They are about something even more elemental: water.

Once again, a lack of clean water and proper hygiene is setting off an outbreak of killer diseases in displaced persons camps.

‘. . . The famines are coming as a drought sweeps across Africa and several different wars seal off extremely needy areas. . . .

‘In Yemen, relentless aerial bombings by Saudi Arabia and a trade blockade have mutilated the economy, sending food prices spiraling and pushing hundreds of thousands of children to the brink of starvation.

‘In northeastern Nigeria, thousands of displaced people have become sick from diseases spread by dirty water and poor hygiene as the battle grinds on between Islamist militants and the Nigerian military . . . .

‘In South Sudan, both rebel forces and government soldiers are intentionally blocking emergency food and hijacking food trucks, aid officials say. . . .

‘Baidoa itself is controlled by Somalia’s fledging government and African Union troops. But just a few miles outside the town, it is Shabab country, belonging to the Shabab militant Islamist group that has banned Western aid agencies. . . .

[C]rowded camps became hotbeds of communicable diseases like cholera, a bacterial infection that can lead to very painful intestinal cramps, diarrhea and fatal dehydration. Cholera is often caused by dirty water and spread by exposure to contaminated feces through fingers, food and flies.

Shockingly fast, the camps become disease factories. Water, of course, is less negotiable than food. A human being can survive weeks with nothing to eat. Five days without water means death. . . .

‘Sweltering days and poor rains so far this year have left Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania parched and on the edge of a major food crisis. . . .’

Read the whole article by Jeffrey Gettleman in the New York Times: Drought and war heighten threat of not just 1 famine, but 4, 27 Mar 2017.

Read more
Reuters: In drought-stricken Somaliland, families try to survive on black tea, 29 Mar 2017.

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