WE live in a highly insecure world.
However, the greatest source of global
insecurity is not ISIS, Trumpism or the
nuclear arms race; it is hunger, powered
by the perhaps, the most devastating but
virtually unreported drought in living
memory. As this reality dawned on me,
I thought about children going to bed
hungry; how do they sleep? Adolescents
going to school on empty stomach; what
can they learn? What do you tell a hungry
populace; how can they listen?
In 2013, I went to Namibia; the crops
had failed that May and the Government
had declared a state of emergency. I
was unaware of the devastation nor of
UNICEF’s findings that one third of
the population was either severely or
moderately food insecure. It was the
worst drought in thirty years and the
world seemed oblivious. Namibian
President, Hifikepunye Pohamba had
cried out: “It has now been established
that climate change is here to stay and
humanity must find ways and means of
mitigating its effect.” It did some seem
the world listened.
Today, the situation is worse with the
large Kunene Province experiencing no
rain in the last two years. Rather than
starve to death, some of the inhabitants
are selling their livestock and moving
to the cities where there are no jobs. The
Namibian Government is now running
drought relief programmes with a new
one planned to begin in June.
That same year, I was in Zimbabwe and
travelled the countryside from Harare
to Masvingo, some three hours drive.
Laying prostrate before my eyes were
vast farms that seemed empty except
for cattle. I thought it was the result of
the land seizures, but was shocked to
find that rain had deserted large parts of
the country for many years. Now, about
four million Zimbabweans need food
aid to survive the drought. Of course it
is not just the humans, but also the ten
national wildlife parks are at risk. On
May 3, 2016, the Parks Management
issued a statement stating : “In the light
of the drought … Parks and Wildlife
Management Authority intends to
destock its parks estates through selling
some of the wildlife”
While Zimbabwe experienced drought,
its neigbour, Mozambique was under
severe floods, but not anymore; in
2015, drought set in, now the United
Nations (UN) says the country needs
$100 million for humanitarian aid to
check hunger occasioned by drought
and internal conflicts. With 28 million
people in Southern Africa facing hunger,
the Secretary General of the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red
Crescent, Elhadj As Sy is launching a $150
million appeal fund to begin a roll back. Ethiopia had experienced severe
famine especially in the 1970s; now it is
experiencing a similar tragedy. In 2015, the
crops failed and today, 10 million of its 99
million population are facing starvation.
Six million of the starving are children with
435,000 of them, according to UNICEF,
experiencing acute malnutrition.
South Sudan is a tragedy with its selfinflicted
wounds which has aggravated
hunger in the country with 2.5 million
people needing food aid. Somalia is of
course, a worse tragedy having experienced
two famines and an unending, fractious
civil war which began as skirmishes in
1988. Hunger struts the land, but given the
endless conflicts, statistics are hard to come
by.
Drought and famine had long planted
themselves in the Lake Chad Basin which
serves Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Nigeria.
The Basin Commission and the German
Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation
and Development (BMZ) in a study revealed
that Lake Chad shrunk from 25,000 Square
Kilometres in the 1960s, to 4,800 Square
Kilometres in 2014 while the multi-ethnic
population rose from 17 million in 2005 to
38 million in 2016. This is an explosive mix
that has led to hunger, armed conflicts,
terrorist recruitment ground and a relentless
population push southwards into Nigeria.
World Food Programme (WFP) Executive
Director Ertharin Cousin situates the
problem:“ Climate change is impacting
sub-Saharan Africa. Erratic rains have
become more of a reality across the
entire continent… Over 95 percent of all
agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is rain-fed
today. As long as that is the case, we know
that when the rains don’t come, the crops
will fail and people will go hungry.”
Asia is not in a better shape; 330 million
Indians are affected by drought. The
country’s Water Resources Minister Uma
Bharti on May 16, 2016 told the BBC that
transferring water, including from major
rivers like the Brahmaputra and the
Ganges, to drought-prone areas is now
her government’s top priority. The RELIEF
WEB gave an alarming summary of drought
in South East Asia. Vietnam is witnessing its
most severe drought in ninety years with 39
of its 63 Provinces in need of urgent food.
The drought in Indonesia began in August
2015 and now, 1.2 million Indonesians need
food aid. The Philippines is experiencing
its worst drought since 1950; nine of
Thailand’s Provinces are drought-stricken;
300 villages in Myanmar are suffering from
drought while that in Malaysia continues.
The drought in Cambodia began in June,
2015 , its worst in fifty years. Now it has
enveloped 18 of its 25 Provinces.
Latin America and the Caribbean are also
experiencing hunger. Haiti had a fifty percent
drop in agricultural production from July–
December, 2015. Three million Haitians
are experiencing food insecurity with
560,000 in urgent need of food assistance.
The UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that
in 2016, 3.5 million people are experiencing
drought in Honduras, Guatemala and El
Salvador .Colombia and Venezuela are also
experiencing drought.
Europe is in a far better shape than Africa,
Asia and Latin America, but it is also in the
danger zone. The worst heat waves since
2005 hit large parts with drought affecting
parts of Germany, Czech and France. In
2015, there was a rainfall deficit of 50-60
percent in Germany, France, Italy, Poland,
Ukraine and Czech. Below the normal
rainfall has been witnessed in the southern
parts of Spain and Portugal, and the Baltic
States. Countries like Netherlands, Belgium
and Belarus are experiencing unpredictable
temperature.
Severe to extreme drought has affected
three percent of the United States with
the country witnessing in February 2016,
its driest February since 1895. From 1996,
Australia has experienced dry conditions
called the Millennium Drought with cities
like Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide,
Brisbane and Sydney having “persistent or
periodic drought experiences” From 2010-
2011, it had below normal rainfall in large
parts.
The UN is putting together in Istanbul,
Turkey, a World Humanitarian Summit in
June 2016; the hope is that humanity will
begin to seriously address drought and
hunger and divert energy and resources to
them, rather than to wars and the arms race.
. Lakemfa, a public affairs commentator
wrote from Abuj


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