Wednesday, April 27, 2022

UN warns Horn of Africa famine

 UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths laid out the dire situation and said that only a fraction of the budget was in hand.

"Once again, vulnerable people across the Horn of Africa are falling victim to the cruelty of acute hunger and potential famine in a crisis that is not of their own making. We must all step up and show the people of this region that we are here to help alleviate their suffering," Griffiths said, adding that if there were to be a fourth failed rainy season, it could bring with it "one of the worst climate-induced emergencies in its history."

The UN's head of emergency relief sounded the warning on Tuesday that upwards of 2 million children are at risk of starving to death, while millions of others faced severe food insecurity. That's as the Horn of Africa region faces what the UN is calling its worst drought in 40 years, leaving Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya at risk. The UN described the situation as stark in six areas of Somalia, where if seasonal rains did not fall, famine could result.

Horn of Africa: Donors pledge $1.4 billion amid starvation warning | News | DW | 26.04.2022

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Climate Change and South Africa's Floods

  Extreme weather is becoming more frequent. South Africa’s devastating floods have been described “sheet upon sheet of relentless rain” that washed away entire houses, bridges and roads, killing about 450 people and making thousands homeless. The full extent of the devastation caused by the floods in South Africa this month is yet to become clear, with many victims still missing and authorities still learning of new damage. Many tens of thousands of people remain without water, and there are rising concerns about an outbreak of infectious disease.

The latest storm, which delivered close to an entire year’s usual rainfall in 48 hours, took meteorologists by surprise and has been blamed by experts on climate change. The new disaster comes after three tropical cyclones and two tropical storms hit south-east Africa in just six weeks in the first months of this year. Experts say the impact of the climate crisis is increasingly obvious across Africa, with tens of millions suffering from drought in the Sahel and parts of east Africa, while the continent’s southeastern coast is hit by intense storms.

The World Weather Attribution (WWA) network of scientists, which has pioneered ways to understand the causes of extreme weather events, said climate change had made the heavy rains along Africa’s south eastern coastline both heavier and more likely.

“Again we are seeing how the people with the least responsibility for climate change are bearing the brunt of the impacts,” said WWA co-founder Friederike Otto, of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said, “It is telling us that climate change is serious, it is here. We no longer can postpone what we need to do, and the measures we need to take to deal with climate change.”

 Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, the director general of African Risk Capacity, an agency set up by the African Union to help governments better plan for disasters and mitigate their impact, explained, “This is just the beginning of a series of extreme weather events that are linked to climate change… Africa pollutes least and suffers most from climate change.”

Poor people living in makeshift settlements built on unstable, steep-sided gorges around Durban were worst affected by the floods. Most have inadequate or no drainage systems and homes are sometimes flimsy shacks that offer little protection against the elements. After Tropical Storm Ana smashed into the region in January, Tropical Cyclone Batsirai hit Madagascar in early February, followed in quick succession by Tropical Storm Dumako and Tropical Cyclones Emnati and Gombe.

Analysis of Storm Ana in Malawi and Mozambique and during Cyclone Batsirai in Madagascar showed links with climate change.

“In both cases, the results show that rainfall associated with the storms was made more intense by climate change and that episodes of extreme rainfall such as these have become more frequent,” WWA said in a report of their findings. Their conclusions matched broader climate research showing that global heating can increase the frequency and intensity of rainfall.

 Many countries in Africa are poorly prepared for such disasters. Though the most industrialised country on the continent, South Africa has struggled to deliver timely and efficient help to flood victims. One reason for the shortage of water among those displaced by the floods in and around Durban there is that around half of the local government’s fleet of 100 water tankers was found to be inoperable when officials ordered their deployment last week. Police used teargas to disperse protesters angry at a lack of assistance from authorities.

After the relentless rain, South Africa sounds the alarm on the climate crisis | South Africa | The Guardian

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Evictions for Masai in Tanzania

 Thousands of Maasai pastoralists in northern Tanzania are appealing for help to stop plans to evict them from their ancestral land. The government plans to evict Maasai in the Ngorongoro conservation area, which is designated a world heritage site by Unesco, and Loliondo, near the Serengeti national park. Both are famous for luxury safari tourism. Tanzania’s tourism minister, Damas Ndumbaro, said the Maasai did not have a claim to their homeland as all land belonged to the president.

More than 150,000 Maasai people face eviction by the Tanzanian government due to moves by the UN cultural agency Unesco and a safari company to use the land for conservation and commercial hunting. The Maasai say their lives are at stake, as their capacity to keep livestock and provide food for their communities will be destroyed if they are evicted.

“We are asking for your help to let our government know that our land is not for sale and that we will continue to resist this longstanding assault on our rights and the ecological integrity of our land. We are therefore calling on your organisation to speak out against these abuses and help us prevent the extinction of our people,” read the letter. “You can keep providing funding to those responsible for appropriating our land in the name of profit or you can make it clear to our government that you will not stand by as our right to live peacefully on and conserving our land is denied to make space for elite tourism and ‘trophy’ hunting.”

“We have nowhere else to go,” they wrote. “Losing this land will mean the extinction of our community. Over 70% of our homelands has been taken for conservation and investment reasons.”

Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute thinktank, said: “This is all for conservation, to create these pristine environments for tourists. The treatment of the Maasai population in Tanzania is symptomatic of a colonial approach to conservation and tourism, which neglects the recognition of indigenous rights.”

In February, eight UN special rapporteurs expressed their concerns about the eviction plans in Ngorongoro. About 82,000 Maasai could be removed from the area over the next five years under plans drawn up by Tanzania’s national commission for Unesco in 2019 to expand the conservation area.

The Maasai already face restricted use of the land because of Unesco listing. They are not allowed to grow crops, which has led to food shortages. The situation has worsened with drought in the region. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, reported on Tuesday how prolonged dry spells had meant pasture and water shortages for livestock in the northern Maasai region and more than 60,000 animals had died.

Farther north in Loliondo, near the Kenyan border, 70,000 Maasai face eviction to make way for the expanding operations of Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC), a United Arab Emirates-owned hunting company. Eviction notices were issued last year but were halted when allegations of intimidation of Maasai emerged. The evictions are expected to go ahead any day.

“They [the authorities] deny people access to water, electricity. They want to create an uncomfortable situation for the people,” said Denis Moses Oleshangai, a lawyer and resident of Ngorongoro.

Tanzania’s Maasai appeal to west to stop eviction for conservation plans | Global development | The Guardian

Monday, April 11, 2022

Somalia - The worst is yet to come

 Somalia faces its worst drought in a decade, children are bearing the brunt. Parents are struggling to feed them, with nearly half of the country's under-five population likely to suffer from acute malnutrition by June.

"If nothing is done, it is projected that by the summer of this year, 350,000 of the 1.4 million severely malnourished children in the country, will perish," warns Adam Abdelmoula from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).

The hunger crisis is also being overshadowed by the Russia-Ukraine war, as aid is being directed to there. Humanitarian agencies say there is a huge funding crisis. They have just 3% of what is needed to intervene in the country.

 The drought has affected 4.5 million people. The Juba River, the largest in Somalia, has barely any water left.  700,000 people have been forced from their homes in search of food and water for them and their animals, and the numbers keep rising. There have been four seasons of failed rains and temperatures are unbearably high - 90% of the country is dry. Carcasses of animals are strewn all over - dead goats, donkeys and camels. This is catastrophic for the many Somalis who earn their living by raising and selling animals. The prices for food and water are surging. Villages have been deserted as people move nearer to the urban centres in search of relief.

70% of school-age children are not attending school. Some girls are being married off early because their families cannot feed them.

Fatuma Mohamed, a nurse at Luuq's malnutrition centre, says "Our worry is the big numbers that we are getting. We are overloaded and operating beyond our full capacity. We have been running short of medical supplies," she says.

The drought is affecting not only Somalia, but the rest of the Horn of Africa and many other parts of the continent. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) says at least a quarter of all Africans are facing a food security crisis. There is also a dramatic rise in the numbers of displaced people. The camps for internally displaced persons are scattered all over the country. And new ones keep springing up. The drought has forced families apart - the men have gone to the towns to earn a living, while the women and children move where they can get aid.

Somalia drought: 'Act now or 350,000 children will die' - BBC News

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Food or Profit

  The Gates Foundation made headlines earlier this year when it expanded its board of trustees. In spite of an emphasis on diversity, all the new trustees have close financial ties with the Foundation and share a belief that technology will solve the world's problems such as the appointment of Strive Masiyiwa.

Masiyiwa played a central role in the Gates Foundation-funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and chaired AGRA from 2013 to 2019, in spite of having, in his own words, "no background in agriculture." After stepping down, he was appointed co-chair of Grow Africa, a platform for private sector investments that are made as part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.  He is a Zimbabwean billionaire who made his money through telecommunications, he invented an Uber-like app for farmers to rent tractors using mobile money and has advocated for drone use in farming. As is clear in his work and writing, he views African agriculture as a vast and as-yet largely untapped frontier for tech investment and profit,  a narrow, tech-focused perspective positions agriculture as only a business.  Such programs guided by a singular focus on making agriculture function like a business cause immense difficulties to the individual small-scale farmers who are forced to keep up with the costs and competition involved in industrial (and increasingly digital) farming that threatens and invalidates local and Indigenous understandings of agriculture as simultaneously an economic activity, a cultural practice, and a form of environmental stewardship. 

This is not to deny that some digital innovations can be beneficial. For example, extension services are increasingly using text messages to communicate rainfall data and planting advice, with demonstrated positive effects for certain farmers. The question is do they serve small-scale farmers' needs and enhance their work and lives, or do they help companies and start-ups sell ill-suited products and services while increasing debt and inequality among farmers? Masiyiwa's actual and proposed interventions seem more likely to do the latter. Masiyiwa represents African entrepreneurs, but he doesn't represent or serve the hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers who produce most of the continent's food.

Opinion | New Zimbabwean Board Member Will Not Diversify Gates Foundation's Approach to African Agriculture | Ashley Fent (


South Sudan's Forgotten People

Conflict,  floods and drought in South Sudan have left more the 7.7 million people – some two-thirds of the population – facing a food crisis.

South Sudan has suffered continuing instability since independence in 2011. Civil wars has cost almost 400,000 lives and uprooted millions from their homes.

More than 7.7 million facing food crisis in South Sudan | News | Al Jazeera

Thursday, April 07, 2022

The Oil Curse

  The “resource curse” phrase was first coined by Prof Richard Auty in 1994, the term refers to the inability of nations to use their windfall wealth to improve their population’s lot and bolster their economies. The rich natural resources bring corruption and poverty to a nation, rather than positive economic development and, counterintuitively, these countries end up with lower growth and development than those without natural resources.

The subject of extensive research, the resource curse, or “paradox of plenty”, points to an inverse relationship where wealth brings a detrimental impact. Nigeria – the largest oil producer in Africa, the sixth-largest global exporter, holds the tenth-largest proven oil reserve in the world – is arguably such a “cursed” nation. Dependent on their natural resource exports, these countries have on average, lower growth rates, lower levels of human development, and more inequality and poverty. They also have been found to have worse institutions and more conflict than resource-poor economies. It arises predominantly due to poor political governance and weak institutions, coming from the distinct phenomena around oil exploitation rather than possession – and is shaped by the multinationals, national and foreign governments, the foreign financiers and investors, alongside the structures of states and private actors in oil exporting countries.

Studies have shown that following an oil boom, an imbalance results as the non-oil sectors are left underdeveloped. As demand rises for capital and labour, the booming oil sector draws away those same factors from essential but less-lucrative sectors, such as agriculture, leaving them enfeebled. The windfall, having created a concomitant abundance and ensuing vast revenues, higher wages, and better returns on investments, leads to administrations finding themselves in new territory. Incompetence and inexperience in managing state finances creates higher incentives to attract corruption.

The state earns most or all its total revenue from the rents paid by foreign individuals, companies or governments. This leads to non-oil sectors shrinking, inflation spiralling, imports increasing in quantity and costs, more expenditure on political vanity projects, subsidies and welfare programmes to counter increased cost of living and the depletion of foreign exchange.

A wealth of sorrow: why Nigeria’s abundant oil reserves are really a curse | Global development | The Guardian

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Russian Atrocities in Mali

 Mali troops and Russian mercenaries allegedly executed around 300 civilian men over five days during a military operation in a central town, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. The killings took place between March 27 and 31 in Moura, a rural town of around 10,000 inhabitants in the Mopti region.

"The incident is the worst single atrocity reported in Mali's decade-long armed conflict," HRW said.

Witnesses said that Malian and Russian-speaking soldiers arrived by helicopter and exchanged two rounds of gunfire with Islamist fighters, during which rebels, soldiers and a few civilians were killed. The troops then deployed through the town, summarily executed several men then gathered hundreds of unarmed others from their homes and took them to the bank of a nearby river. The men were held for five days under the sun and arbitrarily selected for execution by gunfire during the night. Bodies were piled into three mass graves.

NGO accuses Malian troops, Russian mercenaries of killing hundreds of civilians (

Tigrayans: Crimes Against Humanity

 While the world's attention is upon the war crimes of Russia being committed in Ukraine,  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Tigrayans in Ethiopia are facing a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing. The report specifically mentioned the local authorities in Amhara region as the main force driving the alleged ethnic cleansing campaign in the Western Tigray region.  Some Eritrean forces are also involved in the targeted arrests of the Tigrayan civilians.

Tigrayan civilians in the disputed Western Tigray Zone of the country are allegedly being killed and subjected to various forms of sexual violence and abuses, including rape. Some of these Tigrayans also faced mass detentions and forcible movements, a campaign that — along with the other reported abuses mentioned — "amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity," said the rights groups in a statement.  Newly-appointed officials in Western Tigray and the security forces from the neighboring Amhara region had some support and possible collaborations from the Ethiopian federal forces to carry out the alleged atrocities.

In several towns across Western Tigray, signs were displayed ordering Tigrayans to leave, and locally appointed administrators discussed at open meetings how to remove Tigrayans. The report quoted a Tigrayan woman from Baeker town describing how members of Fanos, an irregular Amhara militia "kept saying every night, 'We will kill you… Go out of the area'." Another Tigrayan woman told researchers that while she was being gang-raped by men, a militia member told her: "You Tigrayans should disappear from the land west of [the Tekeze River]. You are evil and we are purifying your blood."

Amhara militia have also been arresting local residents of the town of Adi Goshu for detention.  Members of the Amhara Special Forces are detailed in the report as having rounded up and summarily executed about 60 Tigrayan men by the Tekeze River.

Ethiopia: Tigray civilians targeted in ′crimes against humanity,′ says report | Africa | DW | 06.04.2022