Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Canadian plea for aid to East Africa

Yesterday, Kenya made headlines for the millions of starving people there. Today, a coalition of Canadian aid agencies and advocates broadened their scope to all of East Africa.

Citing the wars in Somalia, and the refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, the Canadian coalition says that 20 million people are starving in East Africa. The group says that years of drought added on top of the violence has led to the starvation.

From The National Post, writer Peter Goodspeed relays the statement.

The Humanitarian Coalition, which includes CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec and Save the Children Canada, warns East Africa faces "a perfect storm of crop failures, a multi-year lack of rain, conflicts and political turmoil," which now threatens 20 million people with severe hunger.

In Somalia, where recent fighting between Islamist rebels and Somali government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers has claimed the lives of 2,000 civilians, half the population already needs food assistance and one in five children is severely malnourished.

But fierce new fighting in Mogadishu now threatens a further deterioration in the humanitarian situation and is sending a fresh wave of refugees fleeing.

On Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced that more than 250,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Somalia since May, pushing the number of displaced people in the country to 1.55 million.

According to the aid agencies, most of the displaced are women and children who are living without access to water, sanitation or medical care in crowded and badly managed camps in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya, which was intended to hold 90,000 people, is now one of the world's largest single concentrations of refugees, with almost 300,000 people.

Oxfam officials recently described the camp as "barely fit for humans," saying half the people in the camp have no access to water and women and children rarely have access to adequate latrines.

Yet Oxfam predicts another 100,000 refugees may flee increased fighting in Somalia this year and seek safety in Kenya.

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