…in other news today, the famine in the Horn of Africa continues to devastate the lives of some of the poorest people on the planet (you might have caught a 30 second glimpse of this story in the ‘international news’ section of tonight’s broadcast, just before the sport)

At the close of business today it was reported that,

  • Estimates of hungry people are at 12.4 million, a 25% increase on the original market approximation of 10 million – this has resulted in the famine being upgraded from AA+ to a AAA level famine,
  •  Access to basic and essential medical treatment has fallen by 37* percentage points, causing widespread sickness, misery and death across the Horn of Africa, with the victims predominantly women and children,
  •  Severe drought has resulted in massive crop failures, stock dying by the thousands and families deserting their homelands, all of which have accumulated in a lack of market confidence in the region,
  • Infectious and preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and flu are on the rise and are claiming young, weak and confused lives on a daily basis, this has increased the downgrading in value of the lives of the victims,
  • Clean water supplies have continued their downward trend and are currently at an estimated 17%*, observers are predicting a further slide, which will result in dramatic increases in the levels of malnutrition, sickness and despair,
  • Access to rape, starvation and displacement are at all time highs, reaching levels the region has not seen for decades, analysts fear they have not peaked,

Since learning of these shocking figures, debate has been raging in the international community over whether or not to bailout the starving millions.  After injecting $700 billion into the veins of Wall Street in 2008, the international community is wary of future bailouts, even if the $2.5 billion the UN estimates is required is only one 280th of what was spent on Wall Street three years ago.

Bono, head of the Celebrity United Nations Team for Somalia, posted an online video from his home in Prague, to urge the international community do everything in its power to help the growing numbers of refugees.

‘We must take a stand.  This is our generation’s chance in history.  We must fight this terrible injustice.  I will be doing everything in my power to help these people.  Will you be standing by my side, and be ONE as we fight this famine?’ Bono’s emotional and powerful call to arms was echoed by other members of the UN Team, Angelina Jolie, who has a black baby, George Clooney, who has been to Sudan and Bob Geldof, who enjoys Ethiopian coffee.

Economists around the world are divided over the principle of a famine bailout.  Renowned British economist Sir Richard Walter Dickinson* argues ‘We need to examine the realities of bailing those people out, I mean, injecting all that money for no fiscal return, is that sound economic policy?  Are we not rewarding the failure of those people to farm their land and protect themselves against radical armed militia?  Drought is not new to that part of the world, yet those people continue to live there.  Why did they not move out after 1984?  If those people fall back into famine, or simply die, then really, we will have failed and wasted a lot of time, money and resources in the process.’

Eugene Dreyfus*, one of America’s most prominent economists and an advocate for the famine bailout has organised for a summit to address the issues.  The summit, which will be held in three weeks time in Lyon, France, will examine the key issues of the famine, the economic impact and draft a plan for Somalia and the region in moving forward.  The group will also present to the world a statement about the famine.

Aid groups have praised economists for organising the summit and have estimated that in the three weeks before the summit, and over the 5 days of which it will be held, approximately 21,000* people will die from preventable diseases, malnutrition, starvation and murder.  They have also estimated that the total costs involved with the summit would be enough to maintain food, water and medical supplies for 30,000 people for a week*.

Meanwhile, the UN has after weeks of difficult deliberation, declared the situation in Somalia officially a famine.  The Rwandan government has expressed surprise, as well as delight, at the speed of their decision.  The reaction from Al Shabaab, the Somali government / militia / terrorist group / al Qaeda group / radical Islamic group has been swift, they declared ‘There is no famine here in Somalia, those claims are simply Western imperial propaganda.  Now is the Holy Month of Ramadan, that is the reason why people are not eating.  There is no famine.  Now go away you evil infidels’.*

Open Fire met with Aziza Jamal*, a displaced Somali mother of seven who now lives in a refugee camp in Northern Kenya.  After her husbands murder at the hands of Al Shabaab, Aziza fled her home country and walked for three weeks to reach the camp.  She expressed her delight that Bono was advocating for the famine victims and that world economists were organising a summit in France.  Aziza feels that with this international support she can ‘move forward with confidence’ and the next time (when, not if) she, or her children, contract malaria, diarrhoea or cholera the physical pain, dehydration and lack of medicine will be more tolerable because she knows the international community is thinking of her.

There are many local and international organisations working with famine victims in the Horn of Africa, this link is just one starting point if you would like to find a group to make a donation to.  Better yet, organise a community event which will not only raise money but general awareness of the famine.  It is disgraceful the amount (or non amount) of coverage this is getting, at least in Australian media.


*I made these parts up… the hyperlinks connect with real articles.

Londonriots, African famine: The difference between first and third world problems – http://www.news.com.au/world/riots-in-london-and-the-famine-in-africa-the-difference-between-a-first-and-a-third-world-problem/story-e6frfkyi-1226113472830