May 18, 2011

HORN OF AFRICA: Food insecurity grips region

Filed under: Africa,Eritrea,Ethiopia,Kenya,Somalia — ethiopiantimes @ 7:44 pm

NAIROBI, 18 May 2011 (IRIN) – The number of people requiring humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa could increase sharply in coming months due to below-average rainfall and high food and fuel prices, say aid workers.

Moreover, funding shortfalls, drought and conflict could further increase the number of people needing humanitarian aid in the region from an estimated 8.75 million people.

Peter Smerdon, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Kenya, told IRIN on 18 May: “The total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn is 8.75 million; some of them get food aid from governments and other aid organizations. At least six million people need food assistance from WFP but this number could increase if the current rains are poor or below average.”

According to Smerdon, by early May, about halfway through the rainy season, rainfall was well below average in most of the Horn, ranging from 5 to 50 percent of normal rates, and well below forecasts.

Funding shortfalls

Of particular concern, he said, were areas of southern and southeastern Ethiopia.

“Amid growing concern about the impact of drought in the southern and southeastern pastoralist areas, many of WFP’s food assistance activities in Ethiopia face significant funding shortfalls,” Smerdon said.

The agency said it was assisting 4.3 million people in Ethiopia.

In Somalia, WFP faces a 70 percent shortfall from May through October and urgently needs contributions of US$53 million to feed one million people in accessible areas for the next six months.

In Kenya, Smerdon said, WFP has a 50 percent funding shortfall of $47 million needed to provide food aid for the next six months to 1.7 million people.

In an April food security report Kenya’s Agriculture Ministry said the national stock of maize – the country’s staple – is expected to be about 5.9 million 90kg bags by the end of July, adequately covering only 1.7 months beginning in August.

The April–September 2011 Food Security Outlook by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) forecast that most households in the hard-hit pastoral areas would become extremely food insecure and many more livestock would die.

According to WFP, the Horn of Africa drought, which began with the failure of the short rains in December 2010, is the first since a two-year regional drought in 2007-2009 that saw the number of people needing humanitarian assistance in the region rise to more than 20 million.

Conflict could further increase the number of people requiring help. In early May, dozens of people were killed and others displaced when violence broke out on the Ethiopia-Kenya border between two communities over rising food prices.

The fighting between the Turkana community of Kenya and the Merille of Ethiopia, local media reported, reflected a broader pattern of inter-ethnic conflict resulting from food scarcity and persistent drought.

On 15 May, international NGO CARE called for more attention to severe food insecurity in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, saying almost eight million people in these countries needed emergency aid.

“Chronic vulnerability, poverty, social injustice and climate change are all responsible for recurring food insecurity in the Horn of Africa,” Mohamed Khaled, CARE’s regional emergency coordinator for East Africa, said in a statement. “On top of that, a significant increase in food and fuel prices has worsened the current situation.

“In Kenya, for example, the price of maize, a staple food, has increased over 27 percent during the last three months. Sufficient attention is needed now to prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods. At the same time, the underlying reasons need to be tackled to break the recurring cycles that have persisted in recent years.”

Photo: Jamal Osman/IRIN
Conflict could further increase the number of people requiring help (file photo)
Measures taken

Djibouti and Somalia have declared the drought situation a national disaster while the Ethiopian government revised its humanitarian requirements document in April 2011 to reflect the growing needs and mobilize a scale-up of humanitarian response.

Khaled said: “While governments of the affected countries have already started interventions, short- and long-term international assistance is needed to help address critical needs but also underlying structural causes and chronic vulnerabilities. What is needed is a set of interventions which strengthens people’s own resilience capacity and coping mechanisms to survive such severe conditions while at the same time responding to their current humanitarian needs and protecting their livelihoods. It is crucial that people can feed themselves through their own means instead of being dependent on food distributions.”


Somalia’s situation is dire as conflict continues. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Security, Nutrition and Analysis Unit (FSNAU), some 2.4 million Somalis are in food crisis, representing 32 percent of the population.

The effects of the ongoing drought, deteriorating purchasing power, rampant conflict and limited humanitarian space continue to aggravate the situation in most parts of the country, FSNAU said in an April update.

Theme (s): Aid Policy, Early Warning, Food Security,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Kenya sends army to Ethiopia border

Filed under: Ethiopia,Kenya — ethiopiantimes @ 4:20 pm
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NAIROBI, Kenya, May 18 – Army personnel have been dispatched to the Kenya-Ethiopia border following recent raids by Merille tribesmen who killed more than 40 people.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga told Parliament on Wednesday afternoon that the army is under firm instructions to relocate more than 900 Merille tribesmen who have settled on the Kenyan territory.

“For a start, the Government has directed the Ministry of State for Provincial Administration and Internal Security, in conjunction with the Ministry of State for Defense to ensure the 2,500 Merilles residing in the River Omo Delta are relocated to Ethiopia,” he said.

The PM further added; “The Government has beefed up security along the Kenya-Ethiopia border at Todonyang. We have relocated the GSU and AP camps at Todonyang to the actual border point 14 kilometres away to counter any planned attacks between the two communities.”

The move follows the killings of 40 people who were shot dead when the Merille militiamen raided a remote village near Lake Turkana and shot indiscriminately at fishermen and a group of men and women who had gone shopping at a border town in the neighbouring country.

But even as the Premier announced the measures taken by the government to deter external aggression at the border points, MPs reprimanded him, saying the government had neglected communities living at the border.

“When you get to our waters, one single pirate can chase away our navy, when you go to the North Eastern Province the Al Shabab are there, when you go to Migingo we are not sure who is in charge, despite the money we spend on the Department of Defence our borders are still not secure from any front what is the problem?” posed Rangwe MP Martin Oginde.

“Can the PM tell this House why the government is not prepared to face this problem head on?” Kandara MP James Maina wondered.

The PM found himself in more trouble when he revealed that the security agencies had failed to act on intelligence reports warning of retaliatory attacks by Merille tribesmen in Turkana.

“It would have been suicidal for Kenyan forces to retaliate against the heavily armed militia given that they were outnumbered. He said the area is served by a police post manned by eight regular police officers with the support of a company of 60 GSU personnel,” he said.

Igembe South MP Mithika Linturi termed the admission as sad. “I am confused by this matter, why was there no directional command given to the army to protect our boders yet they had this information?”

“These revelations are very serious, that the Merilles are in Kenya illegally and they can afford to attack the Kenyans and move back to their place of stay which is within Kenya and the PM can afford to tell this House that the Government was helpless,” added Mosop MP David Koech

Mr Odinga said he was shocked when he and Ministerial delegation he had led to Todonyang one week ago were denied access to the Omo-Turkana delta which he said was well within the Kenya side of the Kenya-Ethiopia border because the Merille were preparing the land for cultivation.

“In the adjacent arid land, the Turkana were languishing for lack of food. Even the District Commissioner could not access the delta. Neither could our security officers. I was informed that about 2,500 Merille live here, 900 among them armed militia. They use the arms kill to our citizens while exploiting our land and water resources,” he said.

The Government has equally directed the Ministries of Provincial Administration and that of Lands and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure the broken and dilapidated boundary beacons are repaired.

The Government has further directed the upgrading of the Todonyang Police Post to a Police Station and provide it with necessary facilities and equipment.

“The Ministry of State for Immigration and Registration of Persons will also move in at set up the border control at the actual border point to strengthen border surveillance and control,” he added.

In addition, the Government has vetted responsible and respected Turkana men who will immediately start working with Kenya Police Reserves along the border.

Mr Odinga further announced they plan to meet their Ethiopian counterparts at a Joint Ministerial Consultative meeting to be held in Addis Ababa between May 31 and June 2, to seek a joint and lasting solution to this border menace.

He said the meeting will be preceded by Joint Kenya-Ethiopia Border Commissioners’ meeting in Kenya on 25th and 26th May.

The Government said it plans to initiate major programmes for development of the Turkana region, in addition to the Sh27 million released to the Turkana County for drought mitigation measures in January.

“For example, the Government is currently expanding a number of irrigation schemes in Turkana East and South, which in total cover 5,800 acres. When these schemes are completed, 145,000 bags of maize will be harvested annually,” he said.

“If the drought persists for a further six months, the Government shall spend another Sh130 million by June 2011,” said the Premier.

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President Mugabe collapsed at home, again last night

Filed under: Zimbabwe — ethiopiantimes @ 12:55 pm

HARARE – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe collapsed at his mansion in Harare last night after what impeccable sources said was a continuation of his mounting health problems, The Zimbabwe Mail can reveal.

A source in the President Mugabe’s close security details told our reporter this morning that the 87 year old Zimbabwean leader collapsed before he went to bed last night but he recovered after a routine work carried out by his medical team of experts and this morning he was said to be feeling a lot better.

The source said the First Family had just finished an evening prayer conducted by a well known senior Harare Cleric who is close to the family and the First Lady Grace Mugabe who is also reported to be not feeling well, went to bed while the President took sometime going through late night routine briefings with his aids.

Around 10:30pm, President Mugabe’s medical team was called in a rush from the Guest House where they now live.

Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa and his wife Gertrude arrived 30 minutes later. Gertrude, a retired army colonel and former Deputy Director in the Army medical Corps is the family nurse and soon after her arrival she took the responsibility of comforting the sobbing First Lady up until late this morning.

As part of the routine process in the last few months, an order was send to Air Zimbabwe, the State national carrier to prepare for an emergence flight to Singapore for the President’s further treatment. However, his medical team did a splendid job overnight and this morning he was reported to be feeling fine but he has held back on some State duties.

We could not verify if he chaired this week’s traditional weekly Cabinet meeting.

A heavily sedated Mugabe has made a number of sporadic appearances in public gatherings in recent months to show his detractors that he still has some strength left to carry on.

He celebrated his 87th birthday in February, and he has travelled to Singapore five times since December for, some observers believe, treatment there for prostate cancer – though his spokesman, George Charamba, says the president has only received medical care for an eye cataract.

His mounting health problems have rocked his party Zanu PF amid reports that his regional counterparts are planning to force him to step down on the grounds of peace and stability in the region.

This latest health setback for the President comes just days before all regional leaders of the SADC bloc are due to meet in Namibia next week to discuss an election roadmap that is expected to pave the way for fresh, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe and already his health has been at the centre of attention following South African ruling party, ANC’s revelation that it is very much concerned about the issue.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has expressed concern that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s reportedly declining health could set back efforts to resolve the country’s crisis should he “die or resign” before a new constitution is in place.

South African President Jacob Zuma, also president of the ANC party, is mediating talks between Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change on behalf of the Southern African Development Community.

“The president’s health has become an issue of public concern and even we as ministers don’t know what exactly is going on,” his loyalist has said in private.

“There is need for clarity on this issue in the public interest because it is now beginning to affect government operations and the party is close to breaking up.”

In December last year, Tendai Biti, the finance minister, told a rally that Mugabe was asleep for the “better part” of a two-hour meeting on the budget.

Some reports say Mugabe, is mulling stepping down as Zanu PF’s presidential candidate if the liberation party fails to gain SADC consensus on plans for an early election; amid mounting tensions in his own party as bitter rival factions jostle for positions.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo has said in the past, the former ruling party is not worried about what will happen if and when Mr. Mugabe leaves office, saying that the question will be dealt with at that time.

“We’ll cross the bridge when we get to it. We don’t speculate and we don’t anticipate,” Gumbo said.

Johannesburg-based political analyst Zenzo Nkomo has said Pretoria is seriously concerned about Zimbabwe’s future, adding that if Mugabe should die in office, that would most likely be politically advantageous to the Movement for Democratic Change.

Harare-based commentator Charles Mangongera has the unresolved issue of Mugabe’s succession is a time bomb for ZANU-PF and Zimbabwe as a nation can move on.

“The implosion of ZANU-PF as a party would be less worrying for Zimbabweans. But my fear is that because each one faction controls a chunk of the establishment, that is a recipe for armed conflict in the country,” Mangongera said.

Zanu PF Politburo, Central Committee and Consultative Assembly sources are already on a full blown exercise to de-brief members of the media on the possible departure of President Mugabe before the ahead of the country’s general elections.

Sources in Zanu PF have separately confirmed in reports that Zimbabweans could wake up “quite soon” to find that the era that began after the fall of the supremacist Ian Smith regime was over.

Frail-looking and tired Zimbabwean strongman has been the undisputed Zimbabwe’s political power since 1980. Mugabe has led the nation with absolute authority since taking over 31 years ago. Speculation has been brewing about succession since late last year when the veteran President began shuttling between Harare and Singapore reportedly over a cancer ailment.

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