By Tomi Jaiyeola, Humanitas Global
In the last few years, there have been more incidences of famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the Sahel Famine in 2010, the Horn of Africa food crisis in 2011 and possibly in South Sudan again this year. This is in spite of agricultural development and the knowledge we have about predicting famine and how to prevent them. These particular incidences of famine are quite unique and the result of a combination of factors, including political instability, poverty and climate change.
A major cause of the crisis in many parts of Africa has been political instability and violence. Internal conflicts often result in many in the region becoming displaced and refugees. The destruction of lands and civil unrest often means that families are unable to farm for safety reasons. This is demonstrated in in South Sudan today, where civil war has result in, more than 1.5 million displaced since mid-December.
The international community has been sending in aid to address the crisis in South Sudan. In the past, aid often didn’t arrive in time, however, in this situation, aid has arrived in time but the concern now is that there is shortage of funding. With the increase in number of refugees, the difficulty in reaching some of those areas and the on-going conflict in the region, there are still millions not being reached.
There is also the issue of poverty. Even if there were no internal conflict, many in Sub-Saharan and Northeast Africa are already vulnerable to hunger due to limited food supplies, high food prices, and poverty. There are many who cannot afford whatever food is in limited food supply because the prices are too high. The economic situation does not help either as there are more people living below the poverty line than above. Many of the countries in Sub-Saharan and Northeast Africa are trying to achieve development as they build infrastructure and attract foreign investments to boost their economy. Part of what makes their situation severe is the fact that these countries are still in the process of development but crises like these make it almost impossible.
The last main factor in the equation is climate change. The Sahel Famine and the Horn of Africa food crisis were caused by severe drought, and heavy rainfalls followed by heat waves. This led to crop failure, death of livestock and poor harvest. A recent report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the impact of climate change would further worsen poverty in developing countries especially as food prices increase. The report also warns of decline in crop yields by 2% each decade, which in turn affects food security.
Although, famine has not been declared, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has published a timeline and predicts that if the conflict in South Sudan continues or intensifies, coupled with a poor harvest, then a famine would officially be declared within the first two weeks of September. Right now, the situation looks bleak. Food portions are being slashed because there is an insufficient amount of funds. Almost five million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and UNICEF has estimated that 50,000 children could die from malnutrition.
Part of the solution entails an internal restitution, politically and economically. The government of South Sudan is in the process of resuming peace talks. We can only hope that it is successful because although the road to recovery is very long, this is a step in the right direction. In the meantime, let us continue to assist anyway we can.