Saving children in the Horn of Africa

It’s not too late to make a difference in famine-ravaged East Africa.

inside story - profiteering from hunger
Famine in Somalia has already caused tens of thousands of deaths, including more than 29,000 children under age five [Agency]

What can we do, collectively and individually, in response to the famine in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, which has been called  “the most severe food security emergency in the world today”?

Since the rains failed in October 2010, famine in Somalia has already caused tens of thousands of deaths, including more than 29,000 children under age five, and is likely to persist through at least December. This is part of an even wider regional drought and conflict-induced humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa that threatens the lives and livelihoods of some 12.4m people. This includes people not only in my native country of Somalia, but also people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries.

The situation is worsened by prolonged conflicts that have forced millions of people to flee the security of their homes and abandon their pasture and livestock. Thousands every day are arriving in already disastrously overcrowded refugee camps.

The famine in the Horn of Africa has forced millions of people, such as the children above, to flee to refugee camps [EPA
The famine in the Horn of Africa has forced millions of people, such as the children above, to flee to refugee camps [EPA

But the famine conditions were foreseen, and the world possesses resources enough to cope, if they were shared and distributed more promptly and effectively. So people in the Horn of Africa are dying not just because the rains have failed but also because politicians and policies – and to some degree, all of the parties to Somalia’s prolonged armed conflict – have failed.

On August 25, the African Union hosted a fundraising conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where African leaders and institutions pledged more than $380m , including $300m from the African Development Bank, to be spent over four years for long-term development in the Horn of Africa. African leaders promised to donate more than $51m. However, aid groups say there remains a shortfall of some $1.4bn . So far, 21 out of 54 AU member states have contributed, with Algeria, Angola and Egypt leading the way by donating a combined $20m. Yet some African activists and citizens are calling for even more leadership to meet the shortfall.

For example, Africans Act 4 Africa, a coalition of civil organizations, has urged countries to donate a “proportional” share based on their economies, calling for pledges of at least $50m, and even larger commitments from economic powerhouses, such as Nigeria and South Africa.

Check out this inspirational YouTube video by Africans Act 4 Africa, which challenges us all to act for Africa, because no Africans should die from famine.

Absolutely, even more international aid is needed. A top UN official, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, has warned the African leaders gathered in Ethiopia this week that the crisis extends beyond issues of hunger to issues of public health, security and livelihood. People living in overcrowded camps need clean water, medicine and hygiene supplies to prevent the spread of diseases such as cholera and measles. There is a need for greater protection in the camps, too, for orphaned children alone and afraid, and for women who face the threat of rape. Refugees trekking to camps need protection from armed groups and bandits. Farmers and pastoralists who have lost their livestock need to rebuild their livelihoods.

For the people of Somalia, that will only be possible when conditions are in place for a durable peace, for regaining the resilience of communities in Somalia, which has not had a stable, functional government for the past two decades.

Andrew Meldrum of GlobalPost provides a handy list of organisations to which we can all donate to help get resources flowing:

“The United Nations’ World Food Programme and the High Commission for Refugees are doing extensive work on the ground. International charities are also providing food, medicine and other care. Oxfam International, Save the Children , Doctors Without Borders and MercyCorps are just a few of the groups that have impressive track records of responding to cataclysmic emergencies. USAID also provides a list of organisations.”

It is not too late to make a difference. Donate now to eradicate famine, and intervene to provide life-saving healthcare and security for children and families in the Horn of Africa. For a few dollars, you can provide starving children with nutritious oral fluids and peanut butter packed with vitamins. You can help provide vaccines to prevent the spread of deadly diseases like cholera and measles in overcrowded refugee camps.

Help save a generation of children in the Horn of Africa, so that they can grow up to rebuild their livelihoods, restore their communities, regain their resilience, and become self-sufficient. 

Iman is a supermodel, entrepreneur, ambassador for Save the Children, and a human rights activist.

You can follow Iman on Twitter: @The_Real_IMAN

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.