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Famine and drought in Eastern Africa

Still fretting because there's not enough in it for you in the carbon tax? Contemplate, if you will, the technical definition of a famine:

  • Acute malnutrition in a region's population reaching more than 30%;
  • Water consumption becoming less than four litres a day;
  • Intake of kilocalories of 1,500 a day compared with the recommended 2,100 a day.
  • Mortality rates of more than two people per 10,000 per day (or about three-quarters of one per cent per year).

The UN's Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit in Somalia has declared that the southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia meet that definition of famine.

Severe drought and the lack of viable government have pushed the situation to extreme levels in Somalia, but the UN has estimated that more than eleven million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance across the "Horn of Africa", including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya.

The following are the main points from the OCHA's (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) factsheet (PDF) issued yesterday:

  • On 20 July, a famine was declared in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia.
  • Eight other regions of southern Somalia are at risk of famine in the coming 1-2 months unless aid response increases in proportion to needs.
  • 11.6 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa region.
  • Refugee influxes from Somalia into Kenya and Ethiopia continue, with an exodus of 3,500 people a day arriving in the past week in areas of Ethiopia and Kenya.
  • More than 20,000 new refugees await registration and accommodation in Dadaab while a new camp is not yet operational pending Kenyan government authorization to begin relocation of refugees.
  • Out of the US$ 1.87 billion in humanitarian requirements for Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, more than $1.1 billion has been committed, but a shortfall of $829 million remains as of 22 July

This report from the conditions faced by refugees near the Somalia-Ethiopia border aired on Al Jazeera English on Thursday:

The Australian Government announced on Wednesday an increased level of humanitarian assistance for agencies working in the famine-hit area. That page also links at the bottom to those agencies with operations in Australia to whom we can provide help.

I donate to Oxfam. Here is Oxfam Australia's information and donation page on their work in this crisis.

Here is The Guardian's explainer page on the famine.

Some things there to contemplate while you're dining out, watching Masterchef or complaining about the rain. Can we do more?