Horn of Africa: more energy and attention needed

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

As the United Nations reports that the number people needing assistance in the Horn of Africa crisis has now risen to 12.4 million, with drought declared in three more areas of Somalia.

ACT deputy general secretary Rebecca Larson says ACT members globally are working tirelessly to raise funds and to keep at bay the worst effects of famine and drought.

But at the same time, she points to a number of key factors that need addressing. Experts predict there is no likelihood of let-up in the crisis until well into next year. Larson says more attention and energy is urgently needed to save lives, and that more funds must be raised in order for ACT members and other organisations on the ground to do the work they are able and prepared to do.

However, she emphases that the underlying drivers of vulnerability in the region - conflict, poverty and food insecurity - demand that emergency relief be provided in a way that promotes long term sustainability.

“We cannot ignore the contributing impact of climate-induced hazards such as drought. We must continue to urge the international community and especially G20 states to galvanise political support for predictable sources of climate finance, especially in the Horn of Africa.”

Larson is firm on the fact that the region will continue to remain unstable as long as the Somalia conflict continues. No peaceful solution appears to be in sight for Somalia as long as armed groups in south and central Somalia become increasingly radicalised and the transitional government is weakened by internal power struggles.

While much of the ACT response is organised nationally, it is important to assess and understand the wider regional perspective.

“This is a crisis with severe impact on the local communities but which also crosses borders, with national, regional and international implications. We understand that this crisis will be long term and has already begun spreading.

“We must keep urging the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the UN and other key global players to renew efforts to resolve the Somalia problem if innocent Somali lives are to the saved,” Larson says.

Unless these factors are addressed, all efforts to improve the region’s resilience to future disasters and its ability to develop will be difficult, if not impossible.