This Is What Hunger Looks Like — Again

     This tragic story should not have been necessary to be told-it should not have happened. Somalia, the Sahel and the Sahara could have been developed–should have been developed beginning at least 50 years ago when the nations of Africa liberated themselves from colonialism. It is a crime that the Western institutions refused to assist the young Africa nations in building the infrastructure that wold have led to economic growth and abundant production of food. If an East-West railroad had been built, if a South-North railroad had been built, the African continent would be totally different today and poverty could have been eliminated. 

NYT Sunday Review | OPINION  By NURUDDIN FARAH AUG. 12, 2017

    Mogadishu, Somalia — As I waited for my ride to collect me from the Mogadishu airport, an officer told me an apocryphal tale: A starving goat, blind from hunger, mistook a baby wrapped in a green cloth for grass and bit off a mouthful of emaciated flesh from the baby’s upper arm. The baby’s anguished cry brought the mother to her knees and she wept in prayer. The next day, a friend I met in Mogadishu repeated a variation of the same tale.
    I saw the story as encapsulating much of what everyone needs to know about the goat-eats-baby severity of the current famine in the Somali Peninsula, with more than six million affected, crops wasting away, livestock dead or dying, water and foods scarce. Cholera, typhoid and meningitis finish the job that prolonged hunger has started.
    The entwining of wars and famine has multiplied the magnitude of deaths among Somalia’s farmers and herders. More than half a million Somalis have been displaced since November 2016 by drought and desperate hunger, according to the United States Department of State. They have sought solace in refugee camps on the edges of Mogadishu and other towns. Somalia already had about 1.1 million internally displaced people.
    The families at the internally displaced people’s camps had left their scorched farms and walked numerous miles in punishing heat, across land stripped of vegetation. Parents go mad with despair at the sight of their babies dying from hunger, thirst or both. Hunger affects children’s memories. More than a million children are projected to be malnourished in Somalia, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
    Memories of older famines returned. In 1974, I lived in Somalia when the rains failed and a drought worked itself into a famine. Our destitute relatives, who had lost several children and their beasts to the famine, turned up at our doorstep.
     Seventeen years later, in 1991, the Somali civil war destroyed the state and created a huge reduction in food production. In 2011, when another famine stalked the nation, I remember standing in the midst of a rainless ruin as the weak wind, as malnourished as the people, blew across a barren land, unable to stir the dust in the cracks of the hard-baked earth. The men and women I met were bereft of every vital element that gives meaning to life. About 260,000 people died of hunger.
    Lower Shabelle and Bakool, the two regions most hit by famine and controlled by Al Shabaab militants, are inaccessible. Al Shabaab denies the existence of famine in the areas it controls and has barred humanitarian agencies from reaching those affected. Sadly, the United Nations and the international community have also
refrained from describing it as a famine.
     I contacted a man whom I will call Mr. Markaawi. He worked with an aid group that ran a camp on the outskirts of the city for those displaced by war and famine. Since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, one is more likely to fall prey to a bomb when driving on a highway, in a cafe, in a well-appointed restaurant, a luxury
hotel, a hospital or at a refugee camp. A journey away from one’s private space in Somalia renders one as vulnerable as a clay pigeon, ready to be shot at.
    Friends in Mogadishu, where I was visiting from Capetown, where I currently live, dissuaded me from traveling to the camps outside the capital. Mr. Markaawi helped me meet some displaced families at his office, close to my hotel.
     Again and again during our conversations I heard the refrain that the famine had been at work for months before it was being talked about, that the international response had been slow and that disease and child malnutrition and early deaths intensified as the famine spread across southern Somalia, more particularly in the
territories controlled by Al Shabaab.
     Moreover, the dysfunction of the Somali state, its inability to improve the economy and meet its people’s needs, the long war and the corruption of the political class had forced the Somalis to place greater trust in the international community.
     There was a clear sense that the current famine was more lethal than the one in 2011. “We lost a third of the beasts we owned in 2011,” a man said. “Now the devastation is more severe. We’ve lost all our cattle. No water, no food and no seeds to plant.” People took the only option open: They left. Each family in the camp receives $70 from the aid groups to feed and support themselves.
     I met Faduma Abdullahi, a 36-year-old mother of eight, who had come to the displaced people’s camp outside Mogadishu from a village in the Kurtunwarey District in southern Somalia, about 100 miles away.
     She and her sharecropper husband owned a farm and a house and survived the 2011 famine by bartering for essentials. This time they abandoned their farm and house because nearly everything they had was gone. The couple feared that they and their children would starve to death. “We borrowed the bus fare and came to the
camp,” she said. From the $70 an NGO gives them, they pay a fee for a villager to look after their house.
     Nobody from the Somali government or a foreign organization had visited their farming village to offer assistance. I had heard of Muslim charities working in the area near her village. I wondered if they ever helped. “We never set eyes on an Arab,” Ms. Abdullahi said.
     Many villagers — like a farmer and a teacher whom I shall call Mohamed Mahmoud Mohamed, for his safety — were willing to survive on little and stay, but threats and fear of enforced recruitment by Al Shabaab made them leave. Mr. Mohamed, a 43-year-old father of three, ran a Quranic school with 60 students in his village. He farmed and raised cows when he wasn’t teaching.
     Mr. Mohamed had no more milk to sell. His cows died in the famine. His classroom began emptying as the students left with their parents. The absence of rain, water and food forced him and his family to debate whether they should join the exodus. Mr. Mohamed said he wanted to stay and find a way to survive. Then Al
Shabaab began seeing him — a teacher of the Quran — as a man worth recruiting for their cause. Mr. Mohamed and his family left.
     I spoke to Mr. Mohammed about the tale of the goat and the baby. He was not surprised. “It doesn’t shock me,” he said. “Terrible famines change the nature of both human and animal behavior.”
     The United Nations Security Council was told by top officials in March that $2.1 billion was needed to reach 12 million people in several African countries and Yemen with lifesaving aid, but the member states and donors had delivered a mere 6 percent of that amount.
     Mr. Markaawi was worried about the gap between what governments and donors pledge and what they eventually deliver. He narrated a folk tale in which a starving woman hears the moo of a cow coming from the heavens and she prays to Allah to bring down the cow so that she can feed her starving children. The cow,
when it presents itself to the woman, turns out to be a hyena. I asked him to interpret the folk tale. “I would say that no aid whose main aim is to provide stopgap emergency humanitarian assistance is good enough to do the job.”
Nuruddin Farah is the author, most recently, of the novel “Hiding in Plain Sight.”

The BRICS New Development Bank Provides An Alternative 

President Jacob Zuma presides over official launch of African Regional Centre of BRICS New Development Bank, 17 Aug, 2017

The President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Mr Jacob Zuma, will preside over the launch of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank (NDB) on 17 August 2017. The President will be joined by the President of the NDB, Mr Kundapur Vaman Kamath, cabinet ministers, NDB executives and other dignitaries.

BRICS countries signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank at the Sixth BRICS Summit in July 2014 in Brazil, and the Seventh BRICS Summit marked the entry into force of the Agreement on the New Development Bank. The NDB headquarters were officially opened in Shanghai, China in February 2016.

Another key resolution taken at the Summit was to establish regional offices that would perform the important function of identifying and preparing proposals for viable projects that the Bank could fund in the respective regions.

The first of its kind would be set up in Johannesburg, South Africa. The launch of the African Regional Centre will showcase the NDB’s service offering, highlighting the Bank’s potential role in the area of infrastructure and sustainable development in emerging and developing countries.

We Can Prevent Famine from Killing Millions of Africans

Lawrence Freeman
March 17, 2017
 
Famine is stalking Africa, threatening unprecedented levels of starvation. Famine has already been officially declared in parts of South Sudan’s Unity State, Somalia, and sections of the Borno State in Nigeria. Somalian officials reported 110 human beings perished from hunger in forty-eight hours in one region in the first days of March. One cannot imagine how parents cope watching their children slowly, painfully expire. Famine in Africa is not only unconscionable, but a crime against humanity, because it can be prevented. Only through an entirely new paradigm, that eliminates poverty through infrastructure led development, which can and must be done, will death by starvation finally be eradicated from the entire continent. In over 30 years China has lifted 750 million of its people out of poverty, and has pledged to help Africa eliminate poverty from its vast continent as well. Nothing less than this is acceptable. What is urgently required is; intention and vision for a better future.
 
 A Partial Overview
 
The United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council that the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded in 1945. More than 20 million people in four countries are facing starvation and famine, O’Brien said, and that “without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to
death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease.” The four nations facing immediate catastrophe are; Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies reports that nineteen African countries are facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity. This includes 17 million people in the Horn of Africa; Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, and millions more in Central African Republic, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique are also in danger of acute food insecurity.
According to international food organizations, famine is declared if more than 30% of the population is acutely malnourished;  one in five households within a vicinity face extreme food shortages; and two or more people or four children die per 10,000 daily.
 
*Somalia
Of its 6.2 million population, more than half are in need of aid, with 2.9 million requiring immediate assistance, and 270,000 children suffering acute malnutrition. Somalia has suffered two consecutive years of drought. In the 2011 famine, Somalia lost 260,000 people; over half were children under the age of five.  Many experts fear that unless immediate action is taken there is the potential of a full blown famine, possibly exceeding the 2011 death totals.
 
*South Sudan
As this poor landlocked nation is approaching its sixth anniversary of independence, its living conditions are horrific. The UN reports: almost 5 million people- 40% of the population are in desperate need of food; and 100,000 people in Unity State are presently struggling to survive the reality of famine. UNICEF reports that 1 million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished, and 270,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition.
 
 Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin
In the four nations of Lake Chad Basin; Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, the UN estimates that 10.7 million people require assistance, with 7.1 million categorized as food insecure. In the Northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, the UN reports that 400,000 children are at risk of from famine, with 75,000-90,000 facing immediate danger of dying from hunger.
 
          Humanitarian Aid Is Insufficient
 
          To avert the further spread of famine, UN Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres has requested upwards $5.6 billion, with a majority of the funds needed as soon as the end of March, the New York Times reported. Guiterees also appealed for $825 million in aid to address drought and cholera in Somalia. So far only a small portion of these goals have been met.
          In response to drought, famine, and other disasters, emergency aid is necessary to save lives, and is a moral responsibility. However, we must have the courage to admit to ourselves that simply providing aid is an inadequate response by the UN and international community. Yes, many of these nations suffer from the interrelationship of civil strife, and famine. A paramount underlying cause of both is the inability to provide the basic necessities of life due to severe underdevelopment of their economies. This essential and fundamental truth has been overlooked or deliberately ignored for over five decades, until the recent extension of China’s Silk Road onto the African continent.
In the years following the “Winds of Change” as African nations freed themselves from the yoke of colonialism, many became food self sufficient or nearly so due to abundant fertile soil. Objectively, there is no justifiable reason for hunger to exist anywhere in Africa. Given the large areas of uncultivated, but arable land available in Africa (the most abundant on the planet), Africa not only has the potential to feed its own expanding population, but also become a net food exporter to Asia. Thus to die from hunger is not only criminally immoral, but actually “un-African” at its roots. The not so secret missing ingredient for Africa to achieve its agricultural potential is: physical economic development of vital infrastructure.
 
          What is Actually Required to Prevent Famine
 
 All functioning, i.e. growing economies depend on a platform of integrated infrastructure especially in categories of rail, energy, roads, and water projects, because of their essential, irreplaceable contribution in raising the productivity of the labor force. It has been the failure of Western institutions to assist the emerging nations of Africa in securing the necessary infrastructure across the continent that is the long term cause for the crisis that African nations face today. Some may object to such an analysis, but history has proved that it is the long waves of policy that shape the present and the future. After suffering hundreds of years of slavery that ripped the social fabric of the continent apart and tortured the cultural soul of Africa, it was followed by another century of brutal-exploitive colonialism. The best form of justice would have been to assist these newly formed nations in becoming economically sovereign. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Kennedy had this vision, but tragically it was not shared by other leaders.
Lack of economic growth has a great deal to do with ethnic warfare and the spread of terrorism. Poor people, reaching to find enough water, food, and land for the very survival of themselves and their loved ones become desperate, and desperate people become victims of manipulation in violent conflicts, as well as easy recruits to extremist groups. Economic growth that provides the citizens with means to exist, and hope for a better future, is the great “mitigator” against desperation and alienation that leads to violence.
So far mankind has not been able to prevent draughts, but mankind can prevent draughts from causing famine. How? With infrastructure, nations can mitigate the deadly effects of draughts; by utilizing irrigation, and water management projects, generating sufficient energy to pump water; railroads for transporting food to the needy from other parts of the state and from other countries not as severely affected, and by creating integrated industrial–agricultural sectors capable of producing a surplus of food.
Can one deny that the extreme poverty rampant throughout the nations of the Lake Chad Basin is not a major factor for the spread of Boko Haram? Can anyone deny that the paucity of electrical power for Nigeria’s 190 million people along with sky high rates of youth unemployment are not contributing factors to the multifaceted crisis in north-east Nigeria? Was it not patently obvious that the creation of the new nation of South Sudan without first establishing a stable economy providing the basic needs for its people, especially food, was at serious risk from the beginning?
For example, had the East-West railroad, connecting the Horn of Africa along the Gulf of Eden and Indian Ocean across West Africa to the Atlantic Ocean been built Africa would have achieved new levels of economic growth for all the nations involved. A similar effect would have occurred, had the South–North railroad along African’s eastern spine had been developed. If the great inter-basin water transfer project known as Transaqua, capable of transferring billions of cubic feet of water from the Congo River Basin to Lake Chad, while creating an economic corridor between the nations of the Great Lakes and the Lake Chad Basin, been built thirty years ago when it was first proposed, how much suffering and death could have been prevented. Finally, in December 2016, ChinaPower signed an agreement with Nigeria for a feasibility study on a portion of the long overdue Transaqua project.
 
A New Opportunity to End Famine and War
 
In this century, infrastructure projects are being built across the African continent for the first time, as an extension of China’s Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road policy, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative-BRI. China is collaborating with African nations to build railroads at a rate never seen before on the continent. Discussing the importance of railway development, the Chinese Minister of Commerce recently stated: “Africa is an important part of the One Belt rail initiative.” China’s five biggest foreign railroad projects are in Africa.  Premier Li Keqiang announced China’s intention to help Africa connect all its capital cities by modern rail lines. What effect will this have on the economies of Africa? Nothing short of an economic revolution spurring unprecedented levels of trade and commerce!
As the expression says, China is putting its money where its mouth is, when the West has firmly rejected financing any significant investment in infrastructure for Africa.  Between 2000 and 2014 China made $24.2 billion in loans to finance transportation projects in Africa, according to the China Africa Research Initiative-(CARI). China financed the recently completed Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Djibouti electrified train at $4 billon. China will provide $13 billion to finance construction of the Standard Gauge Railroad-(SGR) in Kenya. The first phase of a rail line for passengers and freight from Mbassa, the largest port in Africa to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and further north to the major market in Naivasha is to be completed by the end of this year. The Horn of Africa will be transformed as the SGR is extended to the capitals of Kenya’s five neighboring states; South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The longer term vision is for the Addis Ababa to Djibouti rail line and the SGR to become eastern part of the East-West railroad.
With Chinese financing and Chinese construction companies, Nigeria is building a standard rail gauge from Lagos to Kano for $7.5 billion with stops in Ibaden, llorin, Mina, and Kaduna. China has signed an agreement with Nigeria for $12 billion to construct a coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar. China has also financed the light rail system in Addis Ababa, and light rail lines in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, and its former capital and largest city, Lagos. China has already financed $22 billion in infrastructure projects in Nigeria, with another $23 billion on going, and $40 billion more are in the pipeline according to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when he spoke last month in Abuja. For Nigeria, a country filled with mega cities inhabited by its huge and expanding population, rail transportation is a game changer.
          In addition to funding rail construction, Chinese companies are involved in other important infrastructure across the continent, including new ports, highways, and airports, reaping $50 billion a year on their investments reports CARI.
           Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority stated bluntly: “We approached the U.S., and they didn’t have the vision. They are not thinking ahead 30 years. They only have a vision from the past as a continent of war and famine. The Chinese have vision.”
It should be emphasized that these rail projects along with other infrastructure projects being built and financed by China will generate hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs for Africa’s unemployed.
 
It is vital that the Chinese Silk Road take up the task of creating electrical power for Africa. A mere 100,000 megawatts of electrical power for the sub-Saharan population of almost one billion, is literally a death sentence for Africa. Without hundreds of thousands of additional megawatts of power, Africa’s future; its very existence is in jeopardy. While the West is infatuated with off grid, lower technologies like wind and solar; construction of hundreds of nuclear power plants, which offer the best and most reliable form of energy is the next challenge. If the expansion of nuclear power follows the rate of growth of rail development, then famine, abject poverty, and war will become a distant memory of the past.  If the new Washington administration breaks from previous US policy, and decides to collaborate with China with its “win-win” approach for all nations to join the Silk Road, then the long overdue industrialization of Africa is eminently feasible.