UN Chief: Virus Could Push Millions of Africans Into Poverty

A woman wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, has her temperature checked by a security personnel before entering a grocery shop at Tembisa township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
A woman wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, has her temperature checked by a security personnel before entering a grocery shop at Tembisa township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

May 20, 2020

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, warns about the danger of the COVID-19 in Africa, both from the disease itself and causing increased levels of poverty.

“It will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.  Already, demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances are declining…. millions could be pushed into extreme poverty

“The U.N. said the low numbers could be linked to minimal testing and reporting, pointing to a World Health Organization warning that the pandemic “could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in 47 African countries in the first year, mostly depending on governments’ responses.”

“To help address the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic, Guterres said Africa needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries” unable to service their debt, “followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.”

“These are still early days for the pandemic in Africa, and disruption could escalate quickly.  Global solidarity with Africa is an imperative – now and for recovering better. Ending the pandemic in Africa is essential for ending it across the world.

“I have been calling for a global response package amounting to at least 10 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product.  For Africa, that means more than $200 billion as additional support from the international community.

“I also continue to advocate a comprehensive debt framework — starting with an across-the-board debt standstill for countries unable to service their debt, followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.” 

 

Secretary-General António Guterres records a video message on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Secretary-General António Guterres records a video message on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

ReadUN: Impact of COVID-19 in Africa

Read my earlier articles on COVID-19 in Africa:

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

 

WFP’s David Beasley Warns of Potential Famines in Africa & Mideast Due to COVID-19

The COVID19 virus arrived in Africa weeks after it hit Asia, Europe and North America. But now, says Berkeley economist Edward Miguel, the virus poses grave risks for Africa and its 1.2 billion people. (AP photo by Patrick Ngugi)

The effects of COVID-19 on food supply chains in developing nations that are already suffering from hunger and acute food insecurity could be more deadly than coronavirus itself, according to David Beasley, Director of the World Food Programme (WFP). Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC on May 8, via teleconference, Beasley told his audience that, if economic conditions continue to deteriorate and endanger the production and distribution of food to impoverished nations, we could witness famines in Africa, and other parts of the world. “You could have 150,000 to 300,000 people die of starvation every day for several months—at a minimum,” he said. In a six-month period of time that equals between 27 to 54 million deaths. Beasley reported, as he did last month to the United Nations Security Council, that 821 million people around the world go to bed hungry and another 135 million are on the verge of starvation.

The fact that almost 1 billion of our fellow human beings are suffering from these levels of food insecurity is proof of the failure of globalization and an indictment of the current monetarist based financial system. With an abundance of fertile land, growing food and delivering food is a matter of investment in infrastructure. There are no valid objective reasons for any human being to go without food. The world needs a New Bretton Woods System, designed to lift all nations out of poverty, as President Franklin Roosevelt has intended. Nothing short of a global rebuilding of our world economy is required.

WFP’s David Beasley warns of dire famines in Africa, Mideast if COVID-19 supply chains damage continues

Watch video presentation below by World Food Programme Director, David Beasley 

A warning from the World Food Programme

Reuters published on May 7, a graphic report: Virus exposes gaping holes in Africa’s health systems, which quantifies the shortages in Africa of physicians, ventilators, intensive care beds and tests for COVID-19.  This deficit in healthcare infrastructure endangers millions of African, who are already suffering from food insecurity, poverty, lack of clean water, and lack of adequate electricity and other basic necessities of life. From March 30 to May 10, the number of COVID-19 cases in Africa has increased from 4,760 cases and 146 deaths to 64,214 cases and 2,344 deaths. That is an increase of 1300% and 1600% respectively in six weeks. If Africa is at the beginning of the  coronavirus curve, and the virus grows exponentially, as it has in other nations, then Africa will not be equipped to handle the magnitude of the crisis.

Read my earlier articles on COVID-19 and Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Ethiopian & Nigerian Leaders Want Debt Cancellation; UNGA President: Infrastructure for Food and Health

Informal economy in Africa (courtesy Grandmother Africa)

May 7, 2020

Human life in Africa is threatened more by the COVID-19 pandemic than any other continent due to the appalling living conditions for the majority of the population.  During lock-down conditions, millions of Africans are faced with the choice of trying to just subsist day by day working in the informal economy to make enough money to feed one’s family or stay home and go hungry.  However, the informal economy itself is part of the problem, since it no health insurance, no unemployment insurance, and income is precarious at best. The very existence of the informal economy is a malignancy that should have been eliminated decades ago, and replaced with an industrialized economy.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), estimates the total world labor force is 3.3 billion people, and about 2 billion of them, or 61% of the total, are working in the informal economy. The vast majority of such informal workers (93%) are to be found in the Third World. In the first month after the pandemic hit their countries, laborers in the informal economy suffered an average 60% drop in their income. Now, 1.6 billion of those 2 billion informal workers—almost 80% of all informal workers—have lost their jobs or are about to. Tragically, Africa has 86% of its labor force working in the informal economy-the highest of all continents.

RFI reports that Nigeria, with over 200 million people, has 40% of its population living in life threatening poverty. According to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), from September 2018, to October 2019, 82.9 million Nigerians earned less than 400 Naira-($1) per day. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which compromises the majority of the continent with almost 1 billion people, 41% live in extreme poverty-$1.90 per day or less. The NBS reports that poverty in Nigeria’s rural areas is more than 50 percent. The economic cruelties of life in Nigeria typify conditions throughout SSA.

Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

Life is More Precious Than Debt

Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, African nations required a debt moratorium to save the lives of their people. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic intersecting the existent conditions of poverty, food insecurity and lack of healthcare infrastructure, Africa leaders are demanding debt cancellation, to prioritize addressing the economic and health needs of their nations. Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Ethiopia and Nigeria are asking for debt relief.

Following Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy’s op-ed in the April 30 edition of the New York Times, PM Abiy wrote  on May 1, that there is an “urgent need for the Global Health Pledging Conference.” In his essay, “ PM Abiy: A Pledge to Combat COVID-19 in Africa, he  outlines the urgency for debt cancellation.

Up to now, there has been a huge disconnect between the rhetoric of rich-country leaders – that this is an existential, once-in-a-century global crisis – and the support for the world’s poor and developing countries [is more] than they seem willing to contemplate. Indeed, until last week, African countries were spending more on debt payments than on health care.”

“In 34 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 45 countries, annual per capita health spending is below $200 – and barely reaches $50 in many of these countries. Such low levels of spending make it impossible to fund acute-care hospital beds, ventilators, and the drugs needed to confront diseases like COVID-19. Paying for doctors, nurses, X-ray technicians, and other health professionals, together with their equipment, can seem almost like a luxury.”

Nigerian President Mahammadou Burhari, echoed PM Abiy’s demand for debt cancellation, in a May 4 meeting with heads of state from the Non-Aligned Movement. President Buhari “urged official lenders to help cushion the pandemic fallout with outright debt cancellation,” according Alonso Soto of Bloomberg. The article reports that, “nearly half of Nigeria’s outstanding external debt is with multilateral lenders, led by the World Bank Group with $10.1 billion. Beijing-based Export-Import Bank of China is the second-biggest creditor with loans totaling $3.2 billion, while Eurobonds account for $10.86 billion or 39% of external debt.”

The author with Amb Tijjani Muhammad-Bande at the Nigerian Mission to the UN-August 2019

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of the United Nations General Assembly, discussed how the spread of the coronavirus is a threat to those already suffering from poverty and food insecurity in a May 1, op-ed by published by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In his statement, Preventing a Pandemic Induced Food Emergency, Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, head of the the Nigerian Mission to the UN, wrote: “two billion people did not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food prior to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.  Indeed, hunger has been on the rise globally for the past four years

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities, putting immense strain on tenuous systems; and plunging those in the most precarious contexts deeper into poverty and hunger.

“In many places, travel restrictions aimed at containing COVID-19 has reduced access to markets; and the purchasing power of millions of people has been decimated as a result of an exponential increase in unemployment rates.  Moreover, school closures have disturbed the main source of nutrition for over 370 million children around the world.

“Those suffering from hunger are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms as a result of associated health conditions, such as malnutrition and non-communicable diseases, which compromise the immune system. Compounding this is the fact that those who are hungry are often trapped in poverty and do not have access to health services, water and sanitation facilities, or indeed the space to quarantine or practice social distancing.

“In both our rapid response to the pandemic, and our long-term planning, it is imperative that we link food security to health interventions and investment in infrastructure.” (emphasis added)

 

For more analysis of COVID-19 and Africa, read my previous posts below:

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Food Shortages and COVID-19 in Africa: Interviews With Lawrence Freeman

Breaking the cycle of food shortage in Africa with fertilizer and technology (courtesy of Global Farmer Network)

April 7, 2020

UN warns of food shortages across globe

Please view this 7 minute interview with Lawrence Freeman on PressTV. Watch: Interview: COVID-19-Hunger in Africa

In this interview with PressTV, Mr Freeman discusses the implications of the food shortages in Africa as a result of the spread of the coronavirus. He said: “The morality of world is on trial. Life has to be put above everything else.”

According  to The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the coronavirus pandemic could cause food shortages for hundreds of millions of people across the globe. The WFP said “Africa is the most vulnerable continent. It added that for many poor countries, the economic consequences of COVID-19 outbreak will be more devastating than the disease itself.”

COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

In the first 15 minutes of this programs, Mr. Freeman discuses the implications of the coronavirus in Africa. Watch: COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa

Africa Union Needs to Demand More

The communique released by the African Union on April 3, does not go far enough. The AU should be leading an all out effort to save lives in Africa and a full mobilization to build-up Africa’s weak healthcare infrastructure. Read: African Union: COVID-19

For more on COVID-19 read my two recent articles below.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Africa Enters New Era of Trade and Development with AfCFTA

July 9, 2019

(Courtesy Africa Feeds)
12th Extra-Ordinary African Union Summit in Niamey, Niger, July 7, 2019. (Courtesy Africa Feeds)

China Global Television Network, or CGTN  published my article on the African Union’s creation of the Africa Continental Freed Trade Area-AfCFTA

Read below.

Six decades after African nations began liberating their people from the yoke of European colonialists, the African Union has launched the “operational phase” of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), taking a giant step toward uniting the 54 African nations and fostering economic progress.

The landmark move was made at the 12th Extraordinary African Union Summit in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on July 7. Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, referred to it as a “historic moment.”

Many prominent African leaders view this new free trade agreement as a “game changer” with the potential to catapult the continent into a foremost position in global trade and development, especially with Africa’s population projected to double in the next 30 years to 2.4 billion.

 Continue ReadingAfrica Enters New Era of Trade and Development-with-AfCFTA

For more on the AfCFTA watch this video interview with Amb. Chihombori-Quao: 

AU Amb Chihombori-Quao: “The African Sleeping Giant is Rising”-The Significance of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area

Hunger and Poverty Are Killing Africa’s Children. It is a Crime Against Humanity: Must Cease Now!

July 2, 2019
Hunger in Africa is rising (courtesy of Africanews.com)

Although I do not agree in full with the analysis in the report: “For Lack of Will: Child Hunger in Africa,” written by the Ethiopian based African Child Policy Forum-ACPF, none the less, it provides a startling study of the horrific effects of hunger on Africa’s children that should be read by all. (See link below for PDF).

The study states that child hunger in Africa is increasing, and presents the following shocking statistics on hunger in Africa:

Globally 10,000 children die every day due to hunger, and in Africa, hunger contributes to about 45% of childhood mortality. One third of child deaths in Africa is attributable to micronutrient deficiencies. Almost half of all child deaths on the continent are caused by hunger!

  • Ninety per cent of children do not meet the criteria for minimum acceptable diet.
  • Sixty per cent of children do not meet the minimum meal frequency.
  • In 2017 alone 14 million children were affected by wasting.

Africa Needs Real Economic Growth

The report correctly identifies poverty as the primary cause for hunger-access to food, estimating that in 2013, 49% of children in sub-Saharan Africa lived in extreme poverty-less than $2 per day.

Unfortunately, the report commits a fundamental error when it repeats the commonly accepted specious statistics of economic growth for African nations.

“Growth in Africa over the last two decades has been impressive by historical and world standards. But it has not been inclusive, with little impact on child hunger.”  

If African economies had experienced real physical growth over recent years, then poverty and hunger would have declined. Instead, both poverty and hunger have increased in many sections of the sub-Saharan continent.

The reports of economic growth are inflated in a specific way; they do not measure real physical growth, but substitute calculations of price valuations of goods and services. There is a fundamental difference, which I will repeat here, because the actual criteria of economic growth is poorly understood.

Very briefly, true economic growth refers to enhancements in the physical production of goods necessary to sustain an expanding population at a constantly improving standard of living. The success of this growth depends on three essential features of an economy. An integrated infrastructure platform of rail, road, energy, and water. A viable manufacturing sector. Plus, the application of continued technology and scientific progress by an educated and healthy workforce. Of course, there is much more to be considered, but these requirements are indispensable. Simply adding up the price-valuations of extracted raw materials, real estate, services, stock exchanges, bank profits, etc. are measurements of monetarist values; not economic growth. Read my early post for fuller analysis: Africa Needs Real Economic Growth Not IMF Accountants

Various sleight of hand tricks and out right sophistry has been used to hide the reality that despite reports of so-called economic growth, poverty is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, disproportionately compared to the rest of the world. Fallacious explanations have been given, like jobless economic growth, or growth that has not trickled down to the people, or non-inclusive growth. However, the bold truth is that Africa has not experienced the reputed growth that has been touted by all the financial intuitions, which sadly many Africans still believe and repeat.

According to this study, malnourishment has increased from 215.5 million in 2014 to 256.5 million in 2017. Other indicators of Africa’s poverty are; 338 million Africans living in extreme poverty, and 3.2 million children under the age of 5 die each other. Applying the figure of 45% of child deaths due to hunger, this would mean approximately 1.5 million African children die from hunger-poverty yearly.

What Need To Be Done

Under the section: “What is to be done?” the report states “No child should go hungry. This is a moral imperative.” I would add, that no adult, no human being should go hungry. While the study calls for radical transformative policies to be put in place, which is absolutely true, it then calls for “…government commitment to giving greater political visibility to ending child hunger.”

This is a grossly inadequate response to genocidal like elimination of Africans due to hunger. Since the liberation of African nations from colonial rule over six decades ago, the glaring lack of infrastructure and industrialization has plagued the continent. It has led to crippled economies, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of millions of Africans, which were preventable. While infrastructure in roads, rail, energy, ports etc. has finally begun to be built in the last decade, it is insufficient to address the glaring need of Africa’s existing 1.2 billion people and projected 2.5 billion by 2050.

Nothing less than a brute-force military-like commitment by Africans and their allies to inundate-saturate the continent with infrastructure, is required. This is the only pathway to eliminating hunger and poverty.  It should have been done years ago. It must be done now.

Read: Child Hunger in Africa

 

 

 

China & the US Can End Poverty by Exploring Space: Africa Gains

Exploring outer space is a natural driver of economic growth. Discovering the universe beyond earth stimulates the mind, excites the imagination, and challenges our human understanding of the physical laws-principles that govern our planet. Discovering new scientific principles leads to new technologies that transform our economic mode of production. Knowledge, understood in this way, changes i.e. improves our relationship to nature-the physical universe. There is no so-called environmental limit to continued economic growth for the human noetic-creative species. The last great burst of productivity in America was a result of President John K Kennedy’s vision for man to land on the Moon. All the new discoveries that were required to accomplish that feat created new technologies here at home, on planet earth. Kennedy’s space program resulted in a 14:1 return on investment. This will happen again as mankind continues to probes further into space. China has taken the lead. However, if the US, instead of demonizing China and Russia were to collaborate with space fairing nations, in searching out new scientific principles of the universe, we would cause a revolution in science. In possession of this scientific knowledge we could end hunger, poverty, and conflict throughout the world. Africa has much to gain by supporting new endeavors into outer space.

“Get Rid of Poverty, But Also Aim Deeper into the Sky”

In the context of the press conference today by China National Space Administration (CNSA), CGTN conducted an interview with lunar mission chief designer, Wu Weiren, with its “face-to-face” reporter. The title of the interview is: “face to face Wu Weiren: a big step for mankind.” He was asked more than once about cooperation with the U.S. Wu responded that there is, in fact, some cooperation with the U.S. on this mission. The Chang’e-4 relay satellite “will extend its service life, and they can use it at that time, after the Chang’e-4 mission… The U.S. made a request to know the landing time and location in advance, so that their satellite can be adjusted to [pass over] the landing site, and record the precise location of the landing site.” This would be of benefit to China.

He continued: “This is a golden opportunity for the United States. It always wants to measure the meteorites hitting the Moon, which can raise the state of the moon dust. This is very difficult. The probability [of observing a meteorite hit] is too small; it is difficult to achieve. But this time we have such an opportunity, so Americans want to seize it, and we are willing to provide them the opportunity.” Asked numerous times about cooperation, Wu said, that “the scientists of the two countries still hope to cooperate together,” providing examples of areas of complimentary science investigations.

When asked by a reporter, “Our country has spent so much money and used so many scientists to do this. Why do we have to help people [do this]?” Wu Weiren responded: “China has fallen behind in the past few hundred years. From the perspective of modern science and technology, we still benefit from the Western countries. We have bathed in the rain of world science and technology development, and we enjoy the benefits. Now that we have the ability, our economy has developed, and our science and technology are gradually catching up with the pace of world development. As General Secretary Xi said, big countries must take on big tasks. I think we should contribute to the world’s science and technology now. We can do this in an era of contribution.”

Wu added: “A nation needs to look up at the stars, and China’s deep space exploration will fly further and further. [We have had] the successful landing of the Chang’e-4, the relay link connection, payload start-up, two-unit separation [of the rover from the lander], rover moon-day dormancy and wake-up, and two-way mutual [photograph] shootings were completed. Every move and every step attracts the attention of the world.”

“Of course, we must do our own things well,” advised. For example, the tens of millions of people in our country have not yet gotten rid of poverty. This should be solved. However, we should also aim deeper into the sky. One philosopher has said that if a nation does not look up at the starry sky and only buries its head and feet, this nation has no hope and no future.

We have 1.3 billion people and we are a big country. I hope that in our generation or the next generation, we can turn our big space power into a strong space power. Now we say that we can catch up with the world’s advanced level. Next we can lead the world. That is the dream of our generation.”

‘A Nation Needs to Look Up at the Stars’

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) held a press conference this morning on the on-going Chang’e-4 mission, and future lunar exploration missions. Giving the briefing was Wu Yunhua, deputy chief commander of the agency, and Wu Weiren, general designer of the lunar program. Wu Weiren
said that CNSA is organizing Chinese experts to work on the follow-on lunar missions, and that three future missions are being planned:
* Chang’e-5, which will launch at the end of this year, will return a sample from the near side of the Moon * Chang’e-6 will conduct a south pole sample return. Whether it will be conducted on the near side or the far side of the Moon depending on the results from the sampling mission of Chang’e-5.
* Chang’e-7 will conduct comprehensive exploration of the south pole, including its land forms, material composition, and environment
* Chang’e-8 will test key advanced technologies on the far side, and companies will be invited to industrialize the technologies. {China Science and Technology Daily} reports that Wu Yunhua added, “On Change-8 we are planning even more crucial experiments for our lunar exploration, including to determine the
possibility of establishing a lunar base for scientific research, if we can do 3D printing on the Moon, and whether it is possible to use the lunar soil for the construction of buildings, in order to jointly construct a lunar base for further exploration of the Moon.”

Previously it has been stated by CNSA that the first Chinese lunar base will be robotic, with periodic visits by astronauts. China has said that its first manned lunar mission will take place around 2030.

At the press conference, the importance of international cooperation was stressed by a number of speakers. All countries are welcome to participate in China’s follow-up lunar exploration and deep space exploration projects, he said.

Ouyang Ziyuan Gives His Views on Chang’e-4 and Future Exploration

Geologist and Academician Ouyang Ziyuan, in an undated, but recent, interview on CCTV, commented on the Chang’e-4 mission. The program was titled “Why We Want To Go to Far Side of the Moon?” Ouyang said that it had been the dream of scientists immemorial to find out about that side of the Moon that we never see. In addition, the far side, which is open to the universe — and all its effects — would no doubt contain ancient rocks that would reveal the secret of the origin of our Solar System. Scientists have chosen a level area of the Moon in the Aiken Basin and have concentrated on an ancient crater, the Von Karman Crater, Ouyang said, which could be one of the oldest parts of the Moon.

Eventually, he said, one task would be bringing ancient rocks back from the crater for examination on Earth. In addition, the Moon could serve as a base for future exploration.

“Our task in the final analysis is twofold. One is the low-frequency radiation. The other is the record contained in the ancient rocks. Our next phase on the Moon must be scientific research, and we have to plan a base for scientific research and gradually improve that base for our work. I am convinced that in
this way we will look forward to new knowledge and to new breakthroughs,” he said.

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.