In the Horn of Africa the hunger season begins in June, when all the grain has been eaten and the autumn harvest hasn’t begun. Chronic or cyclical drought conditions, regional conflicts, steeply rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices and endemic poverty all exacerbate deteriorating food security.
In Djibouti, an estimated fifty per cent of the livestock has died due to inadequate water and pasture, decimating the livelihood of eighty thousand people living in rural areas of the country.
In Eritrea, a large-scale famine is affecting more than two-thirds of the population, and fifteen to twenty per cent of children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition. Only thirty-two per cent of the rural population has access to protected water sources. In neighboring Ethiopia, eight million people receive food assistance, and another one million will probably require assistance before the harvest season begins. One-hundred-twenty-six-thousand Ethiopian children are in urgent need of therapeutic care for severe malnutrition.
And in Somalia, two consecutive seasons of poor seasonal rains have lead to thin pastures, poor cereal harvests, food shortages and soaring prices. More than two million, six-hundred-thousand Somalis are facing hunger.
The United States is making a special effort to help improve the situation in the Horn of Africa. A U.S. Representative in each of these countries has issued a disaster declaration, thus enabling aid agencies to respond quickly to the current emergency. In response, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID has committed critical funding for immediate life-saving interventions, targeting the most affected areas in the Horn of Africa with water and sanitation, health, nutrition, and food assistance. And with an eye to the future, USAID is working to help prevent similar disasters by working with local partners to invest in agricultural production and new technologies.
“We will spend nearly five billion dollars in 2008 and 2009 to fight global hunger,” said President George Bush. “We’re sending a clear message to the world: that America will lead the fight against hunger.”