Friday, December 16, 2011

Famine -Fears rise of food shortages in West Africa - Africa - Al Jazeera English

The UN is concerned that West Africa might suffer a devastating drought like in the Horn of Africa [Reuters]

Millions of people in up to five West African countries will face a food crisis in early 2012 if early warning systems are ignored, the United Nations and aid officials say.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), together with the World Food Programme (WFP) and British charity Oxfam, said this week that failed harvests and low food reserves in the Sahel, and particularly the countries of Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali, would affect up to 11 million people.

Oxfam told Al Jazeera on Thursday that protective measures need to be installed as a matter of urgency.

Early estimates indicate that six million people in Niger and 2.9 million people in Mali are vulnerable; while up to a quarter of Mauritania’s population – about 700,000 people - are reported to be at risk of severe food insecurity. In Chad, 13 out of 22 regions are expected to be affected adversely.

According to estimates, the "lean season", when food availability is at its lowest, is likely to start two to four months earlier than normal, while in parts of Mauritania as early as January.

"Pastoralist [herder] farmers will certainly be hard hit, but there will be strong impacts beyond this group too," Stephen Cockburn, Regional campaigns and policy manager at Oxfam, said.

"Among these, women, small livestock holders, poor households with limited access to productive means, households who used to rely on seasonal migration in conflict-affected areas and communities living in areas affected by insecurity are likely to be the most affected.

"High food prices - up to 40 per cent higher than the five-year average - will have a more general impact across the region."

Early warning systems indicate that estimates for the 2011 harvest point to a dramatic decrease in cereal production in the Sahel, estimated at 25 per cent. But erratic rains and extended dry periods are expected to exacerbate lower production and lead to higher food prices.


However, Seif Sow, regional representative of Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a USAID-funded organisation that monitors food security issues, including strengthening early warning systems, told Al Jazeera the warnings of an impending crisis in the region "are exaggerated".

"Crop failures are localised, meaning that some parts of the countries are affected. But in other parts, there has been decent rainfall and so it’s a mixed situation. The overall production is average.

"They have exaggerated the numbers and the scope of the problem. Response has already started, herders are moving and countries are stocking up. They need to take into account that people have coping strategies, and yes, there has been a decrease in production, but it is not a catastrophe," Sow said.

"If nothing is done, then yes it could be a crisis, but people are acting, through protective programmes and people are developing survival mechanisms … This is not a war situation. A one year food deficit will not translate into famine.”

However, Cockburn said the fact that herders are already moving as a means of surviving, illustrates that serious problems are likely if protective action is not taken. He added that the figures used by Oxfam are widely accepted figures "taken directly from national warning systems and validated by the CILSS".

"We should remember too that this region is chronically vulnerable to food crises - major crises were felt here in 2005, 2008 and 2010 - and even in a 'normal' year, 300,000 children die of malnutrition-related causes.

"When you start from this base, even moderate shocks can have huge impacts on the most vulnerable - and the shocks experienced this year are significant. Levels of global acute malnutrition in the Sahel region are consistently above what UNICEF recognises as emergency levels, even outside 'crisis years'."

Famine in East Africa

In 2011, scores lost their lives in the Horn of Africa after a devastating drought ravaged southern and central Somalia, northeastern Kenya and parts of Ethiopia. Around 12 million people were affected, with hundreds of thousands fleeing from Somalia into Dolo Ado in Ethiopia and Dadaab in Kenya, as drought-affected regions became unlivable famine zones.

The UN said that up to $2bn were required to address the crisis that had spiralled out of control in a region ravaged by poor governance, lack of infrastructure and continued war.

Meanwhile, the FEWS Network confirmed that famine "will persist" in at least two areas in Somalia, while in the areas of Bay, Bakool and lower Shabelle, substantial humanitarian assistance has mitigated extreme food shortages and mortality levels.

Cockburn said that while the context in the Sahel and West African countries is different, the most important similarity between the two regions lay in the fact that both regions are chronically vulnerable to food shortages, usually exacerbated by recurrent shocks like drought.

A communique released by the Food Crisis Prevention Network (FCPN) on December 10 recommended that averting a crisis would require greater attention to the market, as to ensure that prices of essential food items are not raised in deficit zones. The FCPN said that prices were abnormally high already and keeping these prices in check will be necessary to avert a crisis.

Cockburn said "The positive thing in West Africa now is that every government most affected by the crisis [Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso] has publicly recognised the severity of the coming crisis, and most have either developed or are developing emergency response plans.

"There is in general a degree of responsiveness that provides the political space to act, and must be built on to ensure all countries develop plans that are supported also by outside actors," .

Somalia invaded by Ethiopian Mercenary Army US Jan.2007 - YouTube

Somalia invaded by Ethiopian Mercenary Army US Jan.2007 - YouTube: ""

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Somaliland says PetroTrans to extend Berbera port | Reuters

An oil rig is seen on the outskirts of Havana April 5, 2011.  REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
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HARGEISA (Reuters) - PetroTrans, a Chinese petroleum firm, will carry out extension works to Somaliland's Berbera port, after it signed a deal with the government of the breakaway enclave of Somalia, the foreign minister of Somaliland said on Saturday.

The Horn of Africa has been attracting increased investments in the area of exploration by foreign oil firms, due to its proximity to east Africa, where oil has been discovered in Uganda and natural gas found in Tanzania.

"Redevelopment of Berbera Port to make it a gateway to East Africa is the major project of the framework of an agreement signed by the government of Somaliland and PetroTrans Company," Mohamed Abdillahi Omer told Reuters.

"The agreement has not been finalised as financial and technical details will be finalised in the next few weeks."

In addition to extension of the port, other projects will be carried out under the terms of the deal that was signed when the Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo visited China last week.

They include laying pipelines for natural gas and fuel to Ethiopia. A refinery will also be built at the port, as well as a road linking Berbera to Wajale, a town on the Ethiopia-Somaliland border.

PetroTrans has signed a separate agreement with the Ethiopians.

Somaliland, which has been contributing to the fight against piracy off the Somali coast, hopes the deal will create thousands of jobs, raise its profile and attract more investments into the region.

It declared independence from Somalia in 1991.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Police accused by of raping Somalis seeking refuge

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos (R) visits Somali refugees on August 14, 2011 at the Dadaab refugee complex. PHOTO /  AFP
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos (R) visits Somali refugees on August 14, 2011 at the Dadaab refugee complex. PHOTO / AFP
Posted Monday, August 15 2011 at 22:00
  • Government also said to have provided military help to militias whose troops abuse rights

Police were on Monday accused of human rights violations including gang raping and extorting money from refugees.
The report also accused the Kenyan government of also providing military assistance to militias supporting Somali’s transitional government (TFG) without acting to ensure accountability for abuses by their troops or by the militias they support.
The Human Rights Watch report, “You don’t know who to blame: War Crimes in Somalia”, reports extensively on human rights violations by the Kenya Police on the Somali asylum seekers and refugees face as they try enter into the country.
The report gives accounts of two women who were raped by police near Daadab.
However, despite the promise by police to conduct investigations into the allegations of rape and other abuses nothing has happened so far.
In another allegation, the reports says that in January, three policemen from Daadab station gang raped a newly arrived asylum seeker.
“Police told us they were aware of the rape case but claim their investigation did not enable them identify the perpetrators. No one was prosecuted for the crime. Instead the police response was to transfer the implicated police office from Daadab to other stations,” said one of the UNHCR staff in an interview with Human Rights Watch.
Attacked by bandits
The report details that the Somali refugees and asylum seekers prefer to pass though panya (illegal) routes where they risk and are indeed attacked by bandits who beat them and rob them, than face the incarceration Kenyan police who were notorious in arresting, detaining and deporting.
“Kenyan police would ask you for an ID and if you don’t have it, you have to pay a bribe or you are put in a cell. I was arrested but released before I was taken to the main police station. The people I called brought Sh5,000 and paid the police officer who arrested me,” said one refugee.
Kenyan Refugees Act provides that asylum seekers have 30 days from the moment they enter the country to be registered at the nearest office of the Kenya refugee’s commissioner. They may not be refused entry into the country if the country they are going back to is the one they have been expelled from.
Human Rights Watch report also accused the Kenyan and Ethiopia governments and its parties to the conflict, of having deployed units of their armed forces in military operations in southern Somalia in 2011.
It gives details of how informants have reported the presence of Kenyan and Ethiopian soldiers, military advisers and equipment in Somalia during the most recent phase of armed conflict.
A resident of Bula Hawo interviewed by the world rights body said Kenyan forces were responsible for the destruction of the town.
“What destroyed Bula Hawao were the weapons that the Kenyans were firing using tanks,” said the resident.

In the border town of Dhobley, a community hospital was seriously damaged by possible deliberate or indiscriminate shelling from Kenyan tanks and artillery. Witnesses say that the shelling of Dhobley begun from the Kenyan side of the border.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Al-Shabaab changes tactics, withdraws from Somali capital -

African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, where they engaged in heavy fighting with Al-Shabaab militants on July 29.
African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, where they engaged in heavy fighting with Al-Shabaab militants on July 29.
  • NEW: U.N. official calls the retreat "a positive development"
  • The Somali president warns residents to avoid former rebel areas
  • He says the militants may have booby-trapped some areas
  • Al-Shabaab controls areas of southern Somalia struck by famine
(CNN) -- Al-Shabaab has withdrawn from Somalia's war-ravaged capital in what the Islamist militant group called a "change in tactics."
The Somali president said Al-Shabaab, which controls much of southern Somalia, retreated from Mogadishu after heavy fighting early Saturday with government and African Union forces.
The al Qaeda-linked group has been waging an insurgency against Somalia's transitional government since 2006.
"Al-Shabaab and al Qaeda are a menace to Somalia and it is happy news that we defeated them in Mogadishu," Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told reporters.
Al-Shabaab fighters pull out of Mogadishu
But he warned Mogadishu residents not to rush to areas vacated by Al-Shabaab fighters, saying the group may have booby-trapped the area. He also warned of possible suicide bombings.
U.N. special representative Augustine Mahiga lauded the retreat, saying "there is no doubt that the departure of Al-Shabaab would be a positive development and a step in the right direction for a city that has seen so much misery and devastation."
Spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage confirmed Al-Shabaab fighters left the city but said the fighting was hardly over.
"The reasons we withdrew from Mogadishu is we have made changes in our tactics of war," he told the group's radio station, Andalus. "We withdrew because we want to save lives of the poor civilians but we will launch operations against government (and African Union) forces in the coming hours."
Some believe the Islamists withdrew because of funding woes and drought-related issues.
The United Nations has declared famine in five areas of southern Somalia in June, including Mogadishu. In all, about 12 million people in the Horn of Africa region need assistance. Somalia is the worst hit.
"The immediate priority must now be to focus on the humanitarian situation and I call on all parties, from the donor community to all parts of the Transitional Federal Government, to do everything possible to ensure and facilitate the immediate delivery of assistance to those most in need," Mahiga said.
Al-Shabaab has called the famine a "crusader" invention and an excuse for occupation, and issued threats to aid agencies delivering food to afflicted areas.
As crops withered, thousands of people fled and livestock starved. But the militants kept their ban on aid groups operating in their territory in southern and central Somalia, and parts of the capital.

About Me

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.