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Clinton: Famine Aid Must Prevent Future Crises

Steve Baragona

August 12, 2011

The United States has pledged an additional $17 million to nations in the Horn of Africa coping with severe drought. That includes $12 million for Somalia, where tens of thousands of people have died of starvation and disease. In a speech here in Washington Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the response to the famine must look beyond the current crisis and that now is the time to focus on ensuring it does not happen again.

More than two million people have fled their homes in Somalia in the wake of the worst drought in decades.

At a camp near Mogadishu, this woman is one of the lucky ones whose family survived the long and difficult walk.

"None of us died. We are farmers and herders. We lost all our livestock and the children survived. Thanks to Allah," she said.

Dead livestock, withered crops and hunger are the story across a broad swath of the Horn of Africa.

This is not the first time this story has played out in the region, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Every few decades the cycle repeats. And it would be easy to throw up our hands and blame it all on forces beyond our control. But this cycle is not inevitable," Clinton said.

Clinton said the world has the knowledge, tools and resources to make hunger a memory, if there is the will to do so. "Right now when the effects of food security are the most extreme, we must rededicate ourselves to breaking this cycle," she said.

Speaking at the International Food Policy Research Institute, Clinton said Somalia's neighbors Kenya and Ethiopia are better off today than in previous droughts because they invested in their small-scale farmers and herders. Ethiopia's social safety net program puts people to work on projects that improve food security.

"More than 7.6 million farmers and herders have been helped by this program, people who are not in need of emergency aid today," she said.

But critics say this program has made many people dependent on food aid. And Ethiopian political analyst Jawar Mohammed says it has become a political tool as well.

"The government used this network of food aid delivery to force people to become members and supporters of the ruling party," Mohammed said.

But for countries that commit to helping their own farmers and herders improve food security, the United States has pledged $3.5 billion in aid. Kenya and Ethiopia already are receiving help from this program. Clinton called on other donor nations to follow through on pledges they made to help boost developing world food security. Otherwise, she added, the world might soon face another crisis in the Horn of Africa.

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