Photo Per-Anders Pettersson / Save the Children.
The latest on the drought and humanitarian disaster currently unfolding in the Horn of Africa. A tragic story at Independent.co.uk, with each paragraph more horrific than the last. Posted on July 17, 2011.
Increasing numbers of children are dropping dead on the long trek to refugee camps. Those who do get there are more severely malnourished than ever before. And, says the UN, the number of people under threat has now reached 11 million – equivalent to every man, woman and child in Belgium facing starvation. Thus, the chronic food crisis of the Horn of Africa edges with every hungry day towards full-blown famine.
One image captures the degrading awfulness now facing millions. It is not that of a wide-eyed, swollen-bellied child crying for food – although there are countless numbers of them. It is the sight of mothers using rope to bind their stomachs so they will deaden the pangs of hunger as they give what little food they can get to their children – a grotesque parody of the gastric bands used for slimming in the West.
This potentially life-threatening practice has been highlighted by ActionAid. Zippora Mbungo, an 86-year-old grandmother from Makima, Kenya, told the agency’s workers: “I tie this rope around my waist to hold my stomach in and avoid feeling hungry. Most of the time we have very little food, so I give it to my grandchildren first, leaving little or nothing for me. That is why I tie this rope around me. Only the rich people around here don’t tie a rope in times like this.” She added: “This is one of the worst droughts I have ever seen in my life.” Philip Kilonzo, of ActionAid Kenya, said: “This practice shows just how desperately hungry women are. But it can be lethal – women have died after suddenly untying their stomachs once food is available.”
And later in the article…
The UN’s refugee agency says about 40 per cent of the Somali children arriving at Dadaab are malnourished. More children have died here in the first four months of the year than all of last year. Every day, more than 1,400 arrive at this sprawling complex filled with makeshift homes of sticks and tarpaulines, where more than 440,000 people are crammed into and around a camp built for 90,000. Alexandra Lopoukhine, of Care International, said: “This has led to the registration process taking much longer. As opposed to a few hours, or a day at most, it is now taking us three to four weeks at the least.” She said the UN and the Kenyan government are currently holding meetings for permission to expand the camp.
Cases of rape and other violent attacks against women have doubled among refugees fleeing conflict and hunger in East Africa, according to member agencies of the Disasters Emergency Committee. Care International staff at two reception centres at the camp say reported cases have risen to 136 in the first six months of this year, compared with 66 in the same period in 2010. Ms Lopoukhine said: “The most dangerous period for refugees is when they are on the move. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to rape, abduction, illness and even being killed on the journey. Many women set out on the journey alone with their children, leaving husbands behind, and they may walk for weeks in search of food and safety.”
And it goes on like that. Read the story.Social tagging: children > drought > ethiopia > famine > horn of africa > hunger > kenya > rape > refugees > somalia > starvation > women