Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Mihag Gedi Farah
"Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah is the frail face of famine in the Horn of Africa. He stares out wide-eyed almost in alarm, his skin pulled taut over his ribs and twig-like arms." (AP)
It wrenches my heart out of my chest !
Images like this haunt me every day,
and especially at night.
We, ordinary people, are so helpless,
Crushed by the enormity of it all !
At the same time,
The ultra rich wallow in their wealth,
Enjoying their yachts and mansions -
And their impunity.
There must be a special place in hell
For the filthy rich.
Meanwhile -
We, the people,
        Should make their lives on earth unbearable -
Instead of catering to their demands.

Tragedy: Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah weighs only 3.4kg and was hours from death when his mother brought him to an aid camp. Doctors say he has a 50/50 chance of survival. Picture: AP Source: AP

  • 800,000 children could die from famine
  • 3.7 million people on brink of starvation
  • "My baby is sick. In my head, I am also sick"
DOCTORS have given seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah a 50/50 chance of survival.

The United Nations has airlifted emergency food aid destined to victims of the drought in Somalia.

The baby weighs just 3.4kg - a third of what he should - and was hours from death when his mother took him to a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee in Dadaab, Kenya.

His anguished eyes, hollow cheeks and fragile limbs show just how severe the famine in East Aftrica is becoming.

His mother, Asiah Dagane, walked for a week from neighbouring Somalia with Mihag in her arms after all her family's sheep and cattle died.

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"In my mind, I'm not well. My baby is sick. In my head, I am also sick," she said.

Mihag is severely malnourished. Nurses at the camp say they never tell the mothers that their babies might not make it. "We try to give them hope," one said.

Kenya East Africa Famine

Kenya East Africa Famine
Unbearable sadness: Asiah Dagane cradles Mihag at the field hospital in Dadaab, Kenya. "In my mind, I'm not well. My baby is sick. In my head, I am also sick." Picture: AP
Source: AP

Mihag is just one of 800,000 children officials warn could die across the region. Many remain far from aid and medical care in the refugee amps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

An estimated 3.7 million people in Somalia - around a third of the population - are on the brink of starvation and millions more in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have been struck by the worst drought in the region in 60 years.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Somalia into neighbouring Kenya, but thousands have gone in search of aid in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

"Over the past month, UNHCR figures show that nearly 40,000 Somalis displaced by drought and famine have converged on Mogadishu in search of food, water, shelter and other assistance," said Vivian Tan, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"A further 30,000 have arrived at settlements around Mogadishu.

"In total, it is estimated that Mogadishu has received up to 100,000 internally displaced people over the last two months. The daily numbers are still around 1000 in July," added the spokeswoman.

East Africa Famine

East Africa Famine
Anguish: Three-year-old Ali Omar in tears at Bandar Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia. He is one of around 3.7million people who face starvation in the country because of the worst drought in decades. Picture: AP
Source: AP

East Africa Famine

East Africa Famine
Famine: A severely malnourished child waits with his mother to be admitted to hospital in Mogadishu. Picture: AP
Source: AFP

With relief supplies entering the country insufficient to cope with needs, the jostle for food "has caused serious crowd crushes and even some looting".

"As a result, some of the weakest and most vulnerable are left with nothing, despite the best efforts of agencies and charities," said the UNHCR.

The UN's World Program Program was preparing on Tuesday to airlift food aid into the Somali capital Mogadishu, but efforts were hampered by last minute paperwork in Kenya.

"We are still hoping it will take off today," said WFP spokesman David Orr, noting that the flights had a narrow timeframe to take off, offload food and then return to Nairobi.
"If not it will be going ahead on Wednesday," he said, adding that the flights were waiting only for clearance forms to be completed before taking off.


Desperate: Women line up for rations at an aid camp near Mogadishu. Picture: AFP
Source: AFP

The UN last week officially declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia.

The WFP flights will be carrying around 14 metric tons of high energy food aimed to combat malnutrition, especially in children.

Flights will also go to the Ethiopian town of Dolo on the border with Somalia and to the town of Wajir in northern Kenya.

Other organisations have already made relief deliveries, with the UN children's agency airlifting five tonnes of aid into rebel-held part of southern Somalia earlier this month.
The International Red Cross on Sunday said it had handed out 400 tonnes of food in drought-hit areas controlled by the hardline Shebab insurgents, the first ICRC-led drops into such areas since 2009.

The WFP was forced to pull out of southern Somalia last year after a series of threats and curbs on its operations from Shebab rebels, but it has continued to operate in Mogadishu and central and northern regions of the war-torn country.

In Mogadishu alone, WFP assists approximately 300,000 people and it has been scaling up operations with three new centres to feed the large numbers of internally displaced people flooding into the city from the south.

Somalia East Africa Famine

Somalia East Africa Famine
Women and children have been forced to walk for days to reach aid camps. Picture: AP
Source: AP

The UN last week declared famine in two parts of southern Somalia.

According to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 3500 Somalis cross the border into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia every day, adding to the over 740,000 refugees who have already fled across those borders.

"This creates strain on the fragile semi-arid environment, increases tensions with the local host communities and the risk of fire or the outbreak of diseases," Tan said, speaking of conditions in Kenya.

East Africa Famine

East Africa Famine
An elederly woman sits as she waits for food ratios at a feeding centre. Efforts to airlift food into the region have been hampered by paperwork. Picture: AFP
Source: AFP

Where you can donate

 Several aid organisations based in Australia have launched appeals for donations to help the people of East Africa.

Donated money goes towards providing health care, food, water, sanitation and refugee assistance and protection.

Many organisations are already on the ground in East Africa, including UNHCR, CARE, The Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Most donations are tax deductible. Information about how your donation is spent can be found on most organisations' websites.

Unicef Australia East Africa Emergency Appeal

World Vision East Africa Emergency Appeal

Oxfam East Africa Food Crisis Appeal

Red Cross East Africa Drought Appeal

Care Australia East Africa Drought Crisis Appeal

Islamic Relief Australia East Africa Food Crisis Appeal

Australia for UNHCR East Africa Crisis Appeal

Save the Children Australia East Africa Food Crisis Appeal

Anglicord East Africa Drought Relief Appeal

Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia

World Food Programme East Africa Appeal


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