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Somalia Famine: A History That Cannot Be Allowed to Repeat Itself

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One man, Getu Berihun, said his family was badly affected by the recent drought and he is determined to prevent that happening again. “I am willing to try many different crops,” he said. “It’s not easy to farm here, but my intention is to feed my family, so I will work hard to support them.”

The “short rains” in October and November in 2011 were mostly normal across the region, which helped to improve water supplies for livestock and land, and led to a good harvest in early 2012. However, the “long rains” from March to May 2012 have been poor in some areas, which will inevitably slow down recovery efforts and prevent a large number of displaced farmers from returning home to their hard and barren land.

On the one-year anniversary of the declaration of famine in Somalia, it is important to remember that cyclical crises will never be solved in 12 months. Families remain vulnerable and continue to need our assistance during this crucial recovery period. We must remember the human stories behind the numbers, the needless suffering of literally millions in this region.

Guyo Ouampicha, a 45-year-old pastoralist from Marsabit in northern Kenya, is a living example of how investments in the right programs can improve peoples’ chances in the long-term. As a young man, Guyo inherited his father’s goats and cattle. In 1984, after the devastating drought of that year, all of Guyo’s 70 cattle died, leaving him and his family with nothing. To get by, he resorted to selling firewood, charcoal, and wood for house-building so that he could feed his children, but it was difficult to make ends meet.

In 2010, Concern and its local partner set up a communal farming project in his village. Unlike others in northern Kenya who were hit hard by the drought and experienced livestock deaths and high malnutrition rates, the community in Madowadi were protected by their investment in a drip irrigation system. “I don’t think we in Madowadi will ever suffer the terrible effects of drought again now that we have been taught ways around it,” Guyo said.

While it is a good foundation, it is not enough for organizations like Concern to make investments in communities. Governments and donors must also put resources in place so that we can roll-out infrastructural projects that mitigate the worst effects of the region’s new normal of erratic weather patterns, droughts, floods, uncertain planting dates, and shorter growing periods. Without a long-term commitment that focuses on the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, the tragedy that unfolded in 2011 can and will very likely happen again.


Related Stories:

UN: 750,000 Somalis Could Die of Famine

Somalia Is Dying. Why Don’t We Care?

Why Did Canadians Give Less to Somalia Than Haiti and South Asian Disasters?


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8:41PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

I lke the way this organization is lookign at the problem, they are not just giving food, they are giving them a new way to live, they are teaching them to adapt to the environmental conditions and making them auto sustaintables, that will make a difference, is a lot better than to sit to cry with them or to think there is not hope for humanity.

5:46AM PDT on Jul 27, 2012

There needs to be more awareness about this. Thankyou for the article.

10:07AM PDT on Jul 24, 2012

Too many children and not enough resources is a disaster that was sure to happen .

11:42AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

This is sad, but this would NOT happen if we (or governments) payed more attention to birth control and education. This will keep happening, let´s accept it, WE ARE DEPLETING OUR RESOURCES.

4:19AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012

John W - you are truly exagerating.. dont say such crap without doing at least the minimal amount of research on what you are about to post

4:10AM PDT on Jul 23, 2012


10:20AM PDT on Jul 22, 2012


8:04AM PDT on Jul 22, 2012

Heart-wrenching example of how very important it is to learn from history and not to repeat mistakes

7:22PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

it is so sad we wouldn't even have to cut back on what we are eating we would just have to get more organized and throw away less food. Some have figured as much as 20 percent of the food produced or imported to the USA is thrown away as waste. Either because of restaurants not wanting to go through the process to be able to donate food to soup banks. Or the fact that we eat out so much and want our food ready waiting and fresh so when it gets old it is thrown away we just need to slow down a little and be willing to let the food be cooked as it is needed.

1:32PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

With droughts and flooding famine will be a worldwide problem.

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