Sunday, October 16, 2011

Crisis in Horn of Africa is not over; how can we prevent another one in future?

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post on Oct. 4, 2011.
The last time the Horn of Africa was hit by a famine as severe as the current one, it was 1985 and I was just finishing two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. My wife and I, moved by the horrific images coming out of Ethiopia, volunteered to work at a feeding camp with World Vision. But the U.S. relief organization was besieged with similar offers, and politely turned us down. Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones convinced a plethora of pop stars to record "We Are the World." That humanitarian disaster somehow became firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of people around the world.

The current drought and famine is worse than the one in 1985 -- some say it is the worst in 60 years and affects more than 12 million people, most of them women and children -- but seems to be attracting a fraction of the world's attention, despite the proliferation of social media and social networks.

By some estimates, 300,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and are likely to die at a very high rate and very quickly, according to Executive Director Lisa Meadowcroft of AMREF USA, the U.S. affiliate of the African Medical and Relief Foundation (AMREF) based in Nairobi, who just came back from a trip to the Horn of Africa.