Schalk van Zuydam/AP

14 Million at Risk of Starvation in Africa

August 22, 2008 06:58 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Rising food prices worldwide are contributing to the worst hunger crisis in East Africa in years, according to aid agencies.

Starvation in East Africa

The number of acute malnutrition cases in the region has reached its highest level since a period of drought in 2000, says Oxfam International. High food prices due to failed harvests and drought are a major factor in the current crisis.

“We haven’t seen such high rates of acute malnutrition, of above 20 percent, in as many places as we’re seeing right now, since 2000,” Chris Leather, a food security expert for Oxfam, told The Times of London.

Earlier this month, ActionAid warned that the situation could become catastrophic in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti if action is not taken soon.

The worst-affected country has been Ethiopia, where aid agencies estimate that 10 million people are starving. The country is facing a “toxic cocktail” of drought, global inflation, armed conflict and plagues, reports USA Today.

“We give birth to the children,” Urmale Kasaso, whose 4-year-old son is suffering from malnutrition, said to USA Today. “But we can’t grow them.”

The UN World Food Program plans to provide emergency assistance to 3.2 million people in Ethiopia, 900,000 in northern Kenya, 115,000 people in Djibouti, and others in the Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda. The UN also says that 2.6 million people in Somalia are in need of food aid.

Background: The food crisis

Rising food and fuel prices are starting to take a toll globally. The World Food Program estimates that nearly 1 billion of the world’s poor is struggling to survive. It announced earlier this month that it is providing $214 million in food aid to 16 “hunger hot spots,” including several Horn of Africa countries, Haiti, Nepal, the occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Yemen.

In July, it was reported that food shortages worldwide have been exacerbated by hoarding and trade barriers. Many countries have restricted food exports, leaving citizens impoverished and import-heavy countries struggling to procure food. According to a report in The New York Times, at least 28 countries have restricted or banned the export of rice or wheat in response to a worldwide food shortage.

Opinion & Analysis: Africa’s food crisis the work of IMF, World Bank

Writer Walden Bello notes that in the 1960s, Africa was self-sufficient in food and a net food exporter. “The crisis has been building up for years, as policies promoted by the World Bank, IMF, and WTO systematically discouraged food self-sufficiency and encouraged food importation by destroying the local production base of smallholder agriculture.”

Related Topic: North Korea braces for famine


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