AFRICA (ACN News): The international community ignored the warning signs and has reacted too late as East Africa falls victim to a massive famine.
This is the conclusion of Salesians of Don Bosco who are organising aid relief amid worsening reports of famine centring on Somalia and spreading to Ethiopia and Kenya.
Mattia Grandi, one of the local Salesian project co-ordinators, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that warnings of a humanitarian disaster came in December 2010 but at the time “nobody was listening”.
The United Nations declared a famine in parts of Somalia in July and now the UN estimates that 750,000 people are threatened with death in the Horn of Africa.
Early in September, the UN declared that 12 million people across the region needed food aid.
Meantime, Mr Grandi and senior clergy have thanked ACN – a pastoral charity supporting persecuted and other suffering Christians – for making one-off payments providing emergency humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa.
The charity gave more than $65,000 towards an emergency aid relief program for at least 60,000 Somali refugees flooding into Ethiopia.
Focusing on refugees arriving in eastern Ethiopia’s Somali region, the ACN help will go towards building wells, distributing water and providing emergency food and other urgent supplies.
Also provided are blankets, hygiene products, latrines and plastic sheeting and other materials needed for shelter.
Meanwhile, earlier in September, ACN also paid $40,000 to provide emergency help, including water aid and sanitation, in Kenya.
Senior staff from the charity described the grants as “exceptional”, stressing the pastoral “charism” of ACN’s work – supporting the Church and spreading the Gospel.
The aid comes amid reports that the drought is the worst in the region in 60 years, causing a severe food crisis across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Senior UN staff have claimed that the rate of child malnutrition in parts of Somalia is nearly 60 per cent – “a record rate of acute malnutrition” and almost double the rate at which a famine is declared.
Mr Grandi said aid was most urgently needed in the Dolo Odo transit camp, where people who have fled from Somalia were forced to wait several days before being registered.
Until they are registered, they have no official refugee status which means they are excluded from the UN supply programs.
The transit camp was built to house 5000 people but now holds 15,000.
Most of these are women, children and the elderly because the majority of men in Somalia have been kidnapped or killed by the Al-Shabaab militias.
The four refugee camps, where the people are accommodated after their registration, are also overcrowded but the supply system works better there than in the transit camp.
Mr Grandi estimated that up to 2000 people were fleeing across the border from Somalia into Ethiopia every day seeking aid.
Many of these had had their passage from Somalia blocked by the Islamist militias and were forced to turn back.
To reach another place where they could cross the border further north, they had journeyed on foot for a month.
Mr Grandi said their most pressing need was for medical assistance.
He stressed that Ethiopians were suffering the effects of the drought as well as Somalis.
Meanwhile, Caritas Australia continues to respond to the African crisis as well as to a humanitarian emergency in Pakistan, caused by recent floods.
In Pakistan, floods have affected more than five million people and 200,000 families with many left homeless.
Caritas Australia is engaged with partners in both emergencies, but the magnitude of each situation has placed a heavy burden on emergency programs which remain under-funded, leaving many without assistance.
“A humanitarian catastrophe at any time is extremely difficult to deal with, but right now we have two catastrophes and over 18 million people in dire need of help,” Caritas Australia chief executive officer Jack de Groot said.
The Caritas network has been in Pakistan since the onset of the floods in July last year and continues to be directly involved in the delivery of food, water, sanitation, hygiene and health.
To donate to Caritas Appeal go to www.caritas.org.au/eastafricaappeal or you can donate to Caritas’ Emergency Relief Fund which allows us to respond to humanitarian crisis when and where they happen on 1800 024 413.
To donate to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, contact the Aust-ralian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929, e-mail email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148.
To donate to Catholic Mission’s Horn of Africa Children’s Appeal phone 1800 257 296 or visit the website www.catholicmission.org.au