Hunger crisis in Africa: Questions and answers

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The drought in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia has led to the most serious hunger crisis in the world in 2011. It was, however, forecast. Here you can read more about what Norway is doing for the people in the Horn of Africa and what you can do to help.

The drought in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia has led to the most serious hunger crisis in the world in 2011. It was, however, forecast. Here you can read more about what Norway is doing for the people in the Horn of Africa and what you can do to help.

Any inquiries to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the Horn of Africa (applications, questions, etc.) should be sent to: post@mfa.no.

Questions from the press should be directed to the Foreign Minister’s duty press officer: +47 23 95 00 02 or the Minister of the Environment and International Development’s duty press officer: +47 913 95 000 (no text messages).

Why is there famine now?
The humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa has developed from bad to worse during the course of the summer of 2011. The UN is describing it as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. The causes are complex.

Due to the weather event La Niña in the autumn of 2010, there has been almost no rain in the region in 2011. The autumn rains in 2010 failed completely. The spring rains were less than normal in many areas. The region has not been so dry for 60 years. At the same time food and fuel prices have soared. This makes it difficult for people to grow, sell and purchase food.

The conflict in Somalia between the transitional government and the Islamic insurgent group Al Shabaab has also continued. Al Shabaab has made things difficult for humanitarian organisations, including UN organisations, in southern Somalia. In recent years, there has been less response to the UN’s emergency appeals for Somalia. The result is an extremely precarious food security situation and a humanitarian disaster in the Horn of Africa that is affecting more than 10 million people.

Why can’t the UN go into Somalia and sort things out?
Humanitarian organisations are seeking to provide food aid to Somalians so that they do not have to leave there homes. That would cause huge problems for the weakest, who would have to be left behind. It would also have a serious effect on food production throughout the region.

In many ways, the international community – including the UN – has been forced to watch the crisis develop without being able to do very much. This is because much of the affected area in Somalia is controlled by Al Shabaab. They are not allowing emergency relief organisations into the area. Neither the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) nor CARE have been given access. The situation for many other organisations is so uncertain that they cannot send people out there or be confident that assistance will reach those who need it.

This may be about to change. Al Shabaab has shown greater willingness to give humanitarian organisations access. But as the group is divided and its signals ambiguous, we do not yet know how much room for manoeuvre there will be.
We do know that certain organisations are able to work in southern and central Somalia and that more will try to get into the area over the next few weeks.

How can I help?
The easiest and best way to help is with money. All the major Norwegian NGOs provide information on account numbers and telephone lines that make it simple to contribute. More information can be found on the individual NGOs’ websites. You can also send money directly to the UN, for example to FAO or the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.

If you want to go out to the affected areas to help, you should contact one of the major organisations and put you name on their standby list. These organisations will provide the necessary training for such work. Please note that there are high requirements for expertise and experience.

How can Norway ensure that funds reach those in need?
Norway has channelled funding through professional actors and well-tested systems. We are working with the World Bank and the UN system to help to ensure that efforts are as effective and closely coordinated as possible. Funds have also been channelled through organisations that know this area well. Norway sets stringent requirements for documented results and proper reports.  

What will Norwegian funds be used for?
Right now it is important to save lives, but we must not forget that climate change exacerbates disasters like this. Moreover, these people are being affected by two disasters at once: conflict and drought.

Norway was warned as early as October 2010 that the weather event La Niña could trigger a drought in the Horn of Africa. In response, Norway provided around NOK 200 million early this year to the main humanitarian actors in the area, including a contribution to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.

Norway has provided NOK 620 million (USD 104 million) for emergency relief and humanitarian efforts in the region in 2011. These funds will primarily go to the worst hit areas in Somalia. They are being channelled through the UN, the Red Cross and organisations that have long experience of working in the country.  

Norwegian funds are being used to help people on the ground through amongst others these organisations:

How much assistance does Norway normally provide to the Horn of Africa?
Altogether, Norway provideed nearly NOK 530 million in direct development cooperation with the countries in the Horn of Africa in 2010.

• Ethiopia – NOK 196.8 million
• Somalia – NOK 191 million
• Kenya – NOK 80.8 million
• Eritrea – NOK 58.2 million
• Djibouti – NOK 2 million

In addition, Uganda has also been hit by drought. Norway’s development assistance to Uganda amounts to NOK 431.4 million.

Where can I find out more?
There many good sources of information on Internet. Here are some relevant sites:
- UN
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
- World Food Program (WFP)
- Latest news from ReliefWeb
- Latest news from IrinNews

You can also click on the links to the organisations supported by Norway that are listed above.