The situation in large parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan is now worse than what preceded the last disaster in 2011 that killed more than a quarter of a million people. Four failed rainy seasons in succession have decimated livestock, left pastures barren, destroyed crops and caused widespread hunger and malnutrition. Disease is spreading and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to migrate in search of grazing land, water and humanitarian aid.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Thursday, June 30, 2022
The vast mineral-rich DR Congo is struggling to contain dozens of armed groups in the east.
A recent flare-up of heavy fighting in the east has revived decades-old animosities between Kinshasa and Kigali, with DR Congo blaming neighboring Rwanda for a resurgence of a militia called M23.
Bintou Keita, The U.N. special envoy for Congo, warned Wednesday that the M23 rebel group has increasingly acted as a conventional army during escalating military action in the country.
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
A Malawi court has found a Catholic priest, a policeman and 10 others of the brutal murder and mutilating of the 22-year-old victim for the pigment of his skin. One of the culprits was the victim's own brother.
Albinism can mean a death sentence in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where according to the medical journal The Lancet, 1 in 5,000 people is born with the skin condition. In Malawi, superstitions about people with albinism have even resulted in the murder of little children as young as 2 years old.
MacDonald Masambuka from Malawi's southern Machinga district, disappeared on March 9, 2018. Three weeks later, his body was found, mutilated. It later emerged that the priest had intended to sell off body parts — in particular his bones — for his own profit. It took four years to get justice for Masambuka.
At least 20 people with albinism were killed in Malawi in the four years preceding MacDonald Masambuka's murder, according to Amnesty International.
He said "things have changed a lot" and appealed for a greater sense of understanding for the fact that certain superstitions might not fully be grounded in an antiquated form of mysticism but could be rather emblematic of the abject poverty felt in certain parts of Tanzania. "Of course, there are those beliefs that some people think that if you have body parts and somehow use them ... you could get rich," he said. "Although one has to be very careful with the definition of wealth here: Having an iron-corrugated roof on top of your house could be considered as very wealthy."
Despite having vast amounts of arable land, nutritious indigenous crops and skilled agricultural workers, Africa has immense potential for feeding itself, yet the continent still imports most of its grain.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent blockade plus the ripple effects of Western sanctions against Moscow have raised international food and fuel prices, leaving millions of Africans facing an "unprecedented food emergency" this year, according to the World Food Programme. Kenya, Somalia, and large parts of Ethiopia are at risk of acute food insecurity, the UN's Food & Agriculture Organization said this week. In Sahel and West Africa, more than 40 million people could go hungry in 2022, according to the FAO, up from 10.8 million people in 2019.
Even before the Russian invasion, the pandemic and a long period of recurring drought had already hit African economies and farming hard. The war in Ukraine worsened the situation since the continent imported about a third of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. With food prices skyrocketing in global markets, even those countries not reliant on imports from Russia and Ukraine are suffering.
Over the past decade, Africa's food import bill has nearly tripled. But why is it still so dependent on imported grain?
Major areas of Africa's farmland are used to grow cash crops such as coffee, cocoa, and cottonseed oil for export, while the staple crops of the African diet, wheat, and rice, mainly come from outside of the continent, although much of this imported food could be produced locally.
Self-sufficiency for African countries could also be boosted by replacing foreign cereal with regional crops such as fonio, teff, sorghum, amaranthus, and millet, creating much-needed jobs for the youth and markets for their farmers, as well as being the basis for a healthy diet. Indigenous crops have been neglected for decades, largely due to states and international companies pushing for the mass production of maize and wheat and promoting them as staple foods.
"Indigenous crops could offer much healthier alternatives to the cereals currently in use," Pauline Chivenge, a researcher at the African Plant Nutrition Institute in Morocco, explained. "They have benefits that go beyond sustaining food security. They are more nutritious, so in addition to the necessary calories, they contain higher amounts of protein and vitamins."
Chivenge said, "Research and development and mechanization have focused on maize, rice, and wheat, and producing them in large, mono-crop fields at the expense of the region’s biodiversity."
Chivenge also added, "The fact is that grains like maize and wheat are not really suitable for growing in most regions of Africa, where water is in short supply," she added. "They are very much dependent on regular rainfall, which is becoming a real challenge in the wake of climate change."
Wolfgang Bokelmann, a food and agriculture economist at Humboldt University in Berlin, agreed that local crops are underutilized.
Between 2015 to 2018 he oversaw a study on the local production and consumption of a group of indigenous vegetables in Kenya. "The vegetables we studied had previously fallen out of fashion and used to be known as the poor man's food, due to dominance of the foreign produce that colonialization brought to Kenya."
In addition to their health benefits and ecological advantages, indigenous crops can empower women and provide for urban populations Bokelmann said
"There are many types of crops that can grow in home gardens in cities' margins within a short period of time." With the continuous trend of migration from villages to cities in Africa, constellations of small plots of indigenous crop farms around the cities can count as vital food sources for the ever-expanding population of slums and marginal communities, he noted.
"Most of these nations are faced with a dilemma," Bokelmann said. "They are forced to choose between the mass production of crops for exporting, which brings them more price value, or feeding the majority of their population by supporting small-scale farming of indigenous crops."
The idea of having a global market and integrated supply chain used to be popular decades ago, with every country exporting what they best produce themselves while importing what it needs from other countries.
"But from the look of the post-pandemic world, it seems that food sovereignty, the ability of each country and community to grow its own food, is much more important," he said.
And no with the war in Ukraine threatening global food supplies, production and distribution will need to adapt.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
From the September 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
Over 30 million inhabitants of the Sahel region, most of whom are women and children, require life-saving assistance and protection in 2022, an increase of almost two million from 2021.
"...About 7,900 schools are closed in the Sahel due to violence, a 56 per cent increase since 2021”, warns Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “When refugee and internally displaced children are out of school, they become increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Reported cases of child recruitment, killing and maiming of children, and sexual violence by armed groups and armed forces have been rising; child marriages and early pregnancies among school-age girls are at risk of being further exacerbated by the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic situation and climate change”.
Maureen Magee, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Regional Director for Central and West Africa says, “Insecurity and violence are depriving affected communities of vital services, including access to health, education and water, sanitation, and hygiene services, resulting in a vicious cycle of vulnerability. Aid workers are ever more at risk and have been abducted and killed”.
“While needs are at record highs across the Sahel, resources are at rock bottom, and the cost of responding is skyrocketing forcing us to provide half rations in many countries across the Sahel” said Elvira Pruscini, World Food Program’s Deputy Regional Director for West Africa.
Head of West and Central Africa Office at OCHA, Charles Bernimolin, warns, “By June, only 15 per cent of the required US$3.8 billion has been received to support the humanitarian response plans for Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and north-east Nigeria. This is not enough”.
“Between June and August 2022, over 18.6 million people (15 per cent of the region’s total population) are expected to experience severe food insecurity, including 2.1 million people experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity,” noted the regional representative for West and Central Africa at the international organization Action Contre la Faim, Mamadou Diop.
UN and NGO partners raise the alarm: Over 30 million Sahelians, most of whom are women and children, require life-saving assistance and protection, an increase of almost two million from 2021 [EN/AR] - Burkina Faso | ReliefWeb
Monday, June 27, 2022
From the August 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
The concept of classes and class struggle in most African educational and political forums is treated as if it were a cultic secret; a taboo subject. This is not surprising. Class struggles and classes are basically about state power, a fact rightly considered as subversive and extremely dangerous by the ruling and propertied classes, and embarrassing by “objective” academics.
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
A British subsidiary of Anglo-Swiss commodities giant Glencore has formally pleaded guilty to seven counts of bribery in connection with oil operations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Sudan.
Glencore Energy admitted to paying more than $28m in bribes to secure preferential access to oil – including increased cargoes and preferable dates of delivery – and generate illicit profit between 2011 and 2016.
Glencore is also paying $29.6m directly to state-run Brazilian oil company Petrobras in compensation for defrauding the company and roughly $10m to authorities in civil penalties, prosecutors have said.
Helen Taylor, a legal researcher at pressure group Spotlight on Corruption, urged authorities to now investigate and prosecute senior executives who had condoned the wrongdoing.
Party News from the June 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard
An account of the recent visit by two delegates from the Socialist Party to Gambia (2 – 9 April).
Zimbabwean healthcare workers, the country’s nurses, doctors, pharmacists, radiologists and other medical professionals, have gone on strike to compel the government to pay salaries in US dollars as spiralling inflation has eroded the purchasing power of their take-home pay.
Striking workers held placards and danced outside Zimbabwe’s main hospitals, such as Parirenyatwa in the capital Harare, which is one of the country’s largest referral hospitals, and Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, also in the capital, demanding better salaries.
Monday, June 20, 2022
Niger is on the frontline of the climate crisis. The food is all finished and until the rains come no planting can be done in southern Niger. Increasingly erratic rainfall and longer dry seasons mean that many parts of the country have not had a good harvest in a decade. Temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster here than the rest of the world, leading to a cycle of droughts that are eroding the 14% of land that is arable. Last year there was a 39% drop in cereal production.
“The population is on the brink of a dire humanitarian crisis,” says Ilaria Manunza, of Save the Children. “In fact, we are already in the middle of it – the child malnutrition rate is one of the highest in the world.”
Jihadist violence has spilled over from neighbouring Mali and Nigeria, uprooting hundreds of thousands of people, while the economic shock of the war in Ukraine 2,800 miles away has sent food prices soaring.
About 44% of Niger’s children are malnourished and 4.4 million people – 18% of its population – are predicted to face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse this year, twice as many as last year.
Underresourced humanitarian agencies only have funds to help 3.3 million people, leaving more than a million without the aid they need, as donors grapple with other crises. A recent emergency response plan from Niger’s government to deal with the crisis has a shortfall of $200m in its $280m budget, while the UN’s World Food Programme slashed rations to those it helps in Niger by 50% in January as the global food crisis bites.
Like other Sahel countries, Niger sees a big rise in child malnutrition cases during the “lean season” – the gap between harvests that lasts for about four months, starting in June. But doctors and humanitarians say these spikes are becoming more pronounced as the climate crisis bites. The lean season is starting earlier than expected as poor rains mean failed harvests, leaving families unable to replenish stocks or feed themselves.
Everything is becoming very expensive. You see a lot of men and women begging for food. The situation is similar in Burkina Faso and Mali, where people cannot be reached because of jihadist violence. In total, 41 million people across west Africa are facing food insecurity this year, a number that has quadrupled since 2019.
Paolo Cernuschi, Niger director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), explained, “We already had critically high malnutrition rates, with climate change and insecurity. Now we have the war in Ukraine piled on top and food prices have reached all-time highs.”
The IRC has been forced to scale back its operations amid soaring fuel and food prices. On Thursday, David Beasley, head of the WFP, said the economic shocks of the Ukraine war had caused his organisation’s operating costs to rise by $70m a month. As a result, the WFP has reduced people’s rations and was recently forced to suspend some operations in South Sudan, where it feeds 6 million people.
Ali Bandiare, president of the Nigerien Red Cross, says the crisis is the worst in the past decade: “And at the same time, it is one of the least funded. The war in Europe is adding to this problem. We fear redirecting humanitarian budgets to deal with the Ukraine crisis risks dangerously aggravating the situation.”