East Africa facing drought induced famine

Expected rains have failed to arrive for successive seasons in and around Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, causing severe shortages of food and water for millions of people.

OXFAM Humanitarian Director Jane Cocking said, "This is the worst food crisis of the 21st century and we are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost."

She added, "Two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have pushed 12 million people into a fight for survival. People have already lost virtually everything and the crisis is only going to get worse over the coming months - we need funds to help us reach people with life-saving food and water."

The hardest hit is Somalia, a country plagued with civil war, famine, an insufficient supply of drinking water and long-term drought simultaneously impacting the population. Somalia is also home to Islamic fundamentalist groups with ties to Al Qaeda.

With thousands walking sometimes weeks on end to try to find relief, some refugees are being robbed of all possessions by bandits while en route to Ethiopia or Kenya.

In Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank calls "absolute poverty." Ironically, the Word Bank's own policies are in the eyes of many responsible for these conditions.

Every year 15 million children die of hunger.

All told, 12 million of the refugees are in danger of starvation and, according to UNICEF, one million children are at risk to die.

Moreover, the continued lack of rainfall this year and the drastic rise in the price of corn, the food staple for East Africa, mean this humanitarian crisis will continue for some time to come. Meanwhile, drought conditions are expected to continue for the next three months, exacerbating an already drastic and nearly hopeless situation.

These and related problems could be more concretely addressed in a global-scale war on poverty.

The African continent receives little meaningful aid and developmental assistance from Western countries. In the recent period, China has made substantial investments and loans on favorable terms, aid criticized by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as threatening a new "colonialism" during a recent visit.

If the issues of poverty were more seriously and adequately addressed, the 925 million people who presently live in hunger and the many millions of children who die every year before their fifth birthday could have find relief.

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