Monday, July 25, 2011
World rallies to help starving Somalia
While the South African government fumbled for an appropriate response to the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the Horn of Africa yesterday, the international community has been stung into action by horrific images of suffering and death in drought-stricken Somalia.
Just as in 1984, when it took award-winning images of dying children to prod the world into action after a million Ethiopians starved, the latest footage of kwashiorkor bellies and emaciated infants emerging from Somalia appears to have shocked the world into an emergency response.
Having officially declared a “famine” in at least two regions of the country this week, the UN will hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss a global action plan. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has made an impassioned plea to the “human family” to act – and fast.
“Across the Horn of Africa, people are starving. A catastrophic combination of conflict, high food prices and drought has left more than 11 million people in desperate need,” he said yesterday.
Unicef has estimated that about 720 000 children alone could die without immediate aid.
“In total, 2.23 million children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are estimated to be acutely malnourished. If we are to save lives, we need to act now to bring massive quantities of medicines, vaccines and nutrition supplies into the region as quickly as we are able and then get them out to the children who need it most,” Unicef supply director Shanelle Hall said in a statement yesterday.
The organisation is also scrambling to supply insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria and essential vaccines are being airlifted to support a huge vaccination campaign in the coming weeks.
“We appreciate the generosity of the international community and those contributions are already making a difference,” said Unicef’s East Africa director Elhadj As Sy.
Deputy International Co-operation and Foreign Relations Minister Marius Fransman told journalists yesterday that the South African government would send help, but it soon became clear there were no concrete plans in place.
And while Fransman urged South Africans to donate generously to relief efforts, he conceded that no system was yet in place to co-ordinate or collect such donations. A dedicated bank account would be established only after a government meeting scheduled to take place “sometime next week”.
The Africa Forum, an informal network of former heads of state and other leaders from the continent who are tasked with supporting the work of the AU, has meanwhile called on “warlords, pirates and other destabilising forces” to exercise “major restraint” and allow aid to reach those in need. - Saturday Argus