International Rescue Committee (IRC)

7 ways the U.S. can fight drought in Africa

The United Nations has declared a famine in the Horn of Africa, surprising no one who works in the region. As early as August 2010 there were indications that a crisis loomed. Now more than 3.7 million Somalis, or half of the entire population, are in need of aid.

In some areas, more than one in four people are severely malnourished. The UN has reported that an average of 1,300 Somali refugees have arrived in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp each day since June 19. The camp is the largest in the world, with approximately 400,000 inhabitants and the awful potential to grow ever larger. More than 2000 refugees are also crossing daily into Ethiopia. And serious food shortages may well become facts of life and death in Kenya and Ethiopia as well.

Concerned citizens around the world are asking what can be done. We Americans have historically been at the forefront of responding and must do so this time. Based on the International Rescue Committee's findings, programs in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya and on my own travels in the region, I am confident that quick action along the following lines will save lives:

1) Rush more aid to people in need. The U.S. government should move quickly to respond to the UN's appeals and provide substantial additional funds to address the drought - tapping into existing contingency funds and seeking supplemental funding from Congress, if necessary. The media is doing a good if belated job of mobilizing ordinary Americans to supplement official donations with private contributions to organizations like mine.

2) Protect food aid. Ignoring one of the worst droughts in history, the House of Representatives' budget plan would cut next year's food aid budget by one third. To do that is a betrayal of core American values. We can, and should, continue our proud tradition of emergency response to the starving.

3) Fight disease. Emergency medical aid is also needed because disease is the biggest killer during a famine, not starvation. In recent months, for example, we dealt with a measles outbreak. Congested living conditions heighten the risk.

4) Remove legal barriers to providing aid inside Somalia. Private aid agencies have had to leave areas of Southern Somalia where al- Shabaab, an organization identified as a terrorist group, is in control, or risk violating U.S. anti-terrorism provisions. A waiver is needed for relief agencies to return to this drought-stricken area. The UN has exempted humanitarian agencies from sanctions against al-Shabaab; in line with this policy, the Obama Administration should issue such a waiver immediately.

5) Help refugees who have fled Somalia. The International Rescue Committee is one of several organizations providing help to refugees in the enormous Dadaab refugee camps. We are working at reception centers where new arrivals receive food, health screenings, and medical referrals. Young children, pregnant women, and new mothers get fortified food. Our teams are also rushing assistance to other areas in Kenya and Ethiopia affected by the drought to help refugees and host communities. Supporting these programs is imperative.

6) Prevent and respond to violence against women. Violence against women and girls is often associated with war, but natural disasters often bring equally severe risks. As they flee Somalia to safety, women and girls are passing through areas where armed groups and bandits roam -- only to arrive in crowded and potentially dangerous camps. We must ensure that women and girls receive aid and services, safe spaces are created where influxes of refugees occur, and that anyone harmed receives quality, timely care.

7) Don't rob Peter to pay Paul. The drought affects an entire region, and government officials will come under pressure to dedicate its time and focus all of its resources on the drought. But funding should not be reallocated away from others who are hungry, sick and in need elsewhere in the region. Otherwise we will only replicate this crisis in other locations.

Once progress has been made on these seven steps, we should ensure that affected communities and Somali refugees receive the help they need to recover and rebuild. This longer-term development would include educating the children in refugee camps, adding land to existing camps to alleviate overcrowded conditions and asking the government of Kenya and other governments to consider ways to let refugees restart their lives outside of the camps and make contributions to their host countries.

Sadly, this situation also illustrates, once again, the tragic costs of ignoring fragile states like Somalia until a crisis erupts. We know more or less how to respond to a famine. We must become far-sighted enough to prevent such crises so that emergency intervention is not required.

George Rupp is president of the International Rescue Committee.

This piece first appeared in in The Huffington Post on July 28.

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We must fund and support

We must fund and support access to clean potable water, nutritious food, and safe shelter for those who need them. The crisis in the horn of Africa and elsewhere. The UN and others should lessen genocide in Darfur and Sudan. 


TEACH AND ENCOURAGE ABLE MOTHERS TO BREASTFEED. That they have been encouraged by Nestle and other corporate interests (not to mention ignorant physicians) to use baby formula is a CRIME. Nourish the mothers, and then they may nourish their babies with the liquid gold that is breastmilk.

Dear All, The People of the

Dear All, The People of the World Let us join hands to seek a lasting solution by removing this chronic problem from East Africa. All stakeholders must take part & show their commitment; and their readiness in action.



Ending misary in

Ending misary in Somalia------this place has been used as a case show of many things and for many, no one is serious to end the Somali crisis rather happy to manage it to remain within some control. Somali warlords including Alshabab are financially benefiting, I don't yhink they know any ppolitical agenda except pretending to be extreme without understanding basics of Islam. Regional countries are not keen to see unified and strong Somalia that might once ask back its terretories annexed by the neighbours. International community, if I may call it this way, Somali has been used as an open show of faliure of what is called political Islam, same as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Keeping the show open in Somalia is very mush serving the interest of those who are against any modern and moderate Islam as the Alshabab and the alike groups give the opposit picture that overtakes the moderate groups elsewhere in the world. There was an opportunity in 2006 with the Islamic courts, instead of engaging them the international community pushed Ethiopian army to finish them to perpetuate the dismay in Somalia and support indirectly the rise of more fanatic ignorant groups instead. Why the international comunity never agreed to propose and support a federal solution in Somalia, playing games supporting and engaging with this groups today and leating them go tomorrow. Out of the aid business, I believe %50 goes to management, salaries etc and not to fceed Somalis

Stop the wars! make sure that

Stop the wars! make sure that people dontations get to where it's needed it and doesn't get lost in the hands of the greedy. The Church instead of buying bibles with the charities, needs to accept that Birth Control is one of the best ways of stopping or slowing down overpopulation which bringst hunger, illnesses in overcrowded communities! Hungry people don't eat books!!

Hungry people need nutritious

Hungry people need nutritious and nonlpoisonous food as well as relilable birth control and a safe, . clean environment. Survival and vocaational education is also essential.

rescind the policy of

rescind the policy of genocide.

Nothing new here! Same old

Nothing new here! Same old failed strategies. Africa needs something better than this and it will not come from the West!

Thank you. This article will

Thank you. This article will be a required reading in a course on refugees and forced migration I will be teaching in the fall.

Hi; being on SS disability &

Hi; being on SS disability & a very limited income, I cannot contribute monetarily, but can only contribute advice. My suggestion is worldwide education in population control. Until that is accomplished, the problem will only get worse. The result will only be more hungry,sick and dying people. I hate to put it like this, but what else is going to work ? I am all for helping the hungry & those in dire need of medical & other care. I've no idea how to accomplish this mission & it's implimentation will take some time. I realize that the task at hand is nothing short of monumental. Thank You. Peace -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mike.

It also has been proven in

It also has been proven in place like Haiti that throwing money at the problem does not usually help much, as the governments usually end up mis-appropriating, or downright stealing the money.

Right on Mike, I'm also on

Right on Mike, I'm also on SSI and cannot spare anything, except advice, and you are correct.. if one really does a bit of research and reflection, one can see that almost all major worldy problems we have today are due to overpopulation, and lack of education.



I will write to my

I will write to my congressman, Raul Labrador, asking that he push to have funding restored for food aid in the House of Representatives budget plan.

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your commitment to take action on behalf of the millions of people affected by the drought in East Africa.
In addition to writing your Congressman about protecting the food aid budget in the House of Representatives' budget plan, you can also take action through the International Rescue Committee, at Through that page, you can send an email to your legislators urging the United States Congress to provide emergency funding to help victims of the drought and famine.

Thanks again for your support of our work.


Ruth Fertig (IRC online community builder)

Crop starts, V8's, Ensure,

Crop starts, V8's, Ensure, extra foods in the storage somewhere from stores should and could be brought there. It comes to pre- packaged supplies for different disasters, and how to make sure they are brought to where needed. The dam down will stop the drought as soon as more trees are planted making rain and water as it is. Wheels turning will make electricity, convert to natural sources and things will fall in place. Hemp instead of fertilizers of chemicals, nothing but problems otherwise.

How about abolishing war and

How about abolishing war and religious intolerance; not to mention putting an end to political corruption? The same people who fund the combatants on both sides are responsible for providing aid. Prolonged warfare as you have had in parts of Africa specifically Somalia and Ethiopia helps to foster and sustain drought conditions. Qaddafi in Libya did something that most Arab countries and African countries haven't accomplished. He built a pipeline from the Sahara and transported desert water that allowed Libya to turn formerly desert land into sustainable farmland. This could be done throughout Africa if the PTBs would just stop funding these violent six year olds masquerading as grown men. The Israelis of course used sheets of plastic and achieved the same end. Great things can be accomplished if people would only put aside their differences and co-operate.