Monday, August 08, 2011

The German view of th famine

UN World Food Program (WFP) estimates that more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa -- including Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan -- require food assistance as a result of the drought and that nearly half the Somali population, about 3.7 million people, are now in crisis. Since the start of the famine, tens of thousands of Somalis have been displaced, with many going to Mogadishu in search of food and others crossing the borders into neighboring countries, where massive camps have been erected to deal with the influx and distribute relief supplies. Kenya's Camp Dadaab, initially meant to house 90,000 refugees, has already swollen to 400,000 people. With little water and no toilets in the camp, aid workers are concerned disease could spread and create a second humanitarian catastrophe there.

Günter Nooke, who manages relations with Africa for the German government, said China was among the culprits because of its considerable land purchases in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia. There, he said, sales of land had been attractive to a small group of elites, but the property would be more useful to local nationals if it were used to improve the country's own agricultural infrastructure. Nooke said that not everything China is doing in Ethiopia is bad, "but producing food exclusively for export could still lead to major social conflicts in Africa if small farmers are stripped of their land and their basis for making a living." In that regard, he said, the catastrophe is also man-made. He added that Africa already has good conditions for producing sufficient food supplies, with two to three harvests often possible each year. It had become clear that small farmers alone could not solve the food problem. The current catastrophe, he said, showed that better irrigation, proper warehousing and the use of more drought-resistant crops are needed. Because these measures are cost-intensive, an industrialized agricultural system must be built in the region.

Die Tageszeitung writes:

"When viewing the daily images of hunger, it is often forgotten that Somalia is actually a major exporter of food. Last year, Somalia sold more than 4 million cattle in the Arab region. Even today, the hungry southern part of the country exports sugar and rice to neighboring countries. At the same time, the country has one of the world's highest rates of malnutrition because the people have a lack of security and investment, capital and reserves for difficult times. When droughts cause breeding cattle to lose weight and value, export revenues also collapse, sinking revenues for herders, while traders have less money to import food. What they do sell at the market is sold at higher prices than normal. This sets into motion a cataclysmic downward spiral of suffering. It is one that cannot be reversed through the massive free delivery of food from abroad. To the contrary. The goal of international hunger relief needs to be releasing Somalia's own productive forces. Large international aid actions with airplanes and spectacular distribution efforts, on the other hand, are the wrong approach."

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