The Horn of Africa is experiencing the worst drought in the past 60 years, and the resulting famine in the region is considered to be the worst in a generation. Humanitarian aid agencies report that Somalia has been hit the hardest, though the neighboring nations of Kenya and Ethiopia have also experienced severe food shortages. Tens of thousands have died in the humanitarian crisis that has left more than 13 million people in need of assistance throughout the Horn.
Further complicating the situation, terrorist organization al-Shabaab has banned 16 UN aid agencies and international NGOs from working in areas under its control in southern Somalia. And on December 23rd, three humanitarian workers were killed, underscoring both the continued insecurity in Somalia and the risks faced by those trying to provide relief to those in need.
As the United States entered the traditional season of giving and renewal last month, President Barack Obama announced that the United States was increasing its emergency aid to the region by $113 million. The heartbreaking accounts of lives lost and of those struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and the need to reach out to others in distress, the President said.
The new monies will be used for food, health, shelter, water and other needs. With this latest contribution, the U.S. is providing $870 million. Additionally, many Americans have reached out in support through private donations.
But we know that emergency assistance alone cannot solve underlying long-term problems. Through its Feed the Future program, the U.S. is working to assist the affected countries in breaking the cycle of hunger. The program helps countries address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity through innovative agricultural advances and improved policies.