A Warning to the World
More than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa face starvation, the result of a particularly cruel mix of political turmoil and the worst drought in 60 years. The famine has caught much of the world off-guard. Hunger relief agencies are scrambling, and donors have been slow to respond.
The crisis was foreseen: Repeated drought in recent decades has been making the largely pastoral life in the drylands of East Africa unsustainable. Climate change is expected to further dry out the region. And the worst hit areas are in Somalia, a nation trapped for years in a pit of civil war, poverty, piracy and radical religion. The extremist al-Shabab movement has blocked famine aid to areas in the south and prevented residents from fleeing to find help elsewhere.
Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs has underscored the urgency of the need for emergency aid: A billion dollars or more is needed, "equal to $1 dollar from each person in the high-income world."
"The warning is also clear," he writes in The Guardian newspaper. "The Horn of Africa is the world's most vulnerable region, beset by extreme poverty, hunger, and global climate change, notably a drying and warming of the climate during the past quarter century. These scourges are leading to the spread of violence and war, and war is contributing to global instability. Unless we confront the challenges of the Horn of Africa at their root causes — the poverty and vulnerability of pastoralist and agro-pastoralist populations — we will face a burgeoning violence in the Horn of Africa, Yemen, and beyond."
The Earth Institute's collaboration with the UN and other agencies and governments on the Drylands Initiative in East Africa is aiming to tackle the long-term problems faced by pastoral and small-plot farmers across Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Southern Sudan and Uganda. Working through the MDG Centre in Nairobi, the project focuses efforts to achieve the UN's worldwide Millennium Development Goals.