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Horn of Africa: International community lacks ‘foresight’ say NGOs 0

Aid agencies have criticised the United States and other Western governments for failing to respond quickly enough to the more than 11 million people in need in drought-ravaged areas of the Horn of Africa.

Most Civil Society organisations (CSOs) have accused the international community of not having a ‘foresight’ which would have enabled them to act quickly to the crisis in its initial stages.

“The crisis has been building for several months, but the response from international donors and regional governments has been mostly slow, inadequate and complacent,” Fran Equiza, the regional director of the aid agency Oxfam, said in a statement. “There has been a catastrophic breakdown of the world’s collective responsibility to act.”

He said there was still a shortfall of hundreds of millions of euro in funding, adding that by the time the UN called it a famine, “it is already a signal of large-scale loss of life”.

“Although humanitarian agencies are gearing themselves up to mount a response, it is far too late to address anything but the worst symptoms,” Simon Levine, an analyst at the Overseas Development Institute think-tank, wrote on its website.

“Measures that could have kept animals alive — and providing milk, and income to buy food — would have been much cheaper than feeding malnourished children, but the time for those passed with very little investment,” Levine said.

On a recent visit to a Somali refugee camp in Kenya, the US and the European Union blamed the al-Qaida linked Islamic insurgents al-Shabab for causing the worst effects of the drought.

“A big part of why we have a famine in very specific parts of Somalia today is because of al-Shabab and ineffective governance in Somalia and a lack of humanitarian access in precisely those parts,” says U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator, Raj Shah.

“It is no accident that the specific geographies that have been declared by the international community as an official famine are those areas where humanitarian actors from all parts of the world simply have not been allowed to have access to the population,” he said.

On the contrary, the director of the international charity Goal, John O’Shea, told the BBC: “The international and UN’s response to Somalia’s political crisis had worsened the crisis.”

Last week, the United Nations declared a famine in southern Somalia’s Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions, and said nearly half of Somalia’s population needs urgent aid. The World Health Organization said five more regions in southern Somalia are on the brink of famine.

The worsening drought, which forecasters have warned about for months, is being described as the worst in the region in six decades. The UN is estimating that as many as 11 million people are struggling with food and water shortages, acute malnutrition and mass displacement.

Increasing food prices, ongoing conflict and limited humanitarian access combined with successive seasons of failed rains are viewed as responsible for the dire situation. The lack of rain has also been credited as contributing to massive livestock deaths, which undermines the economic livelihoods of many. An estimated 1.5 million people have been displaced to date.

By Staff writer – Afronline

Sources: BBC Africa, Voice of America, Reuters, Irish Times

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