The Horn of Africa is defined as the easternmost projection of Africa, which includes Somalia, the southeast region of Ethiopia, Djibouti and sometimes Eritrea, Sudan and Kenya. These countries, are linked as much by proximity as by a common history, cultural ties, and now, drought and famine.
In this region a state of corporate emergency was declared by The United Nations World Food Programme-the highest level of crisis-due to the widespread loss of life. At least 11.3 million people are in need of assistance in the Horn of Africa today.
According to reports in mid-July 2011, in Somalia, alone, 3.7 million people are without food they need to survive. Three contributing factors are failed harvests, drought, and rising food prices. The fourth, but not least critical, factor is the conflict and violence that also floods this region, preventing food to get to those who are starving.
Step 1: Ask students to think about why violence could trigger a famine? Have students draw on their background knowledge of how food is distributed (in packages, on trucks, via helicopter, by volunteers and aid workers, by doctors or nurses in hospitals), and what issues may become an obstacle in the delivery of these items. List these on a blackboard, or newsprint, for the class to see.
Famine is defined when 2 adults or 4 children in 10,000, per day, die of malnutrition. (source: UN: Parts of south Somalia suffering from famine) Since this region has had the lowest amount of rainfall it has seen in 60 years, it is not only the crops, and the people who are starving. The cattle are also dying of dehydration, robbing families of their food source as well as their source of income. Rain is not expected until October, or more than 2-months from when the disaster was declared.
In some parts of Northern Kenya, the World Food Programme estimates that one third of all children are malnourished (source: Drought Spreads Hunger Across Northern Kenya) and mothers provide a fortified porridge of oil and a corn soya blend to try to keep their children alive. They are not always successful, and often babies who are almost a year old weigh less than newborns.
Step 2: Ask the class, from an economic perspective, what happens if there is a limited supply of something-in this case-food? Then consider what happens where there are no consumers who are able to pay an elevated price, especially if the product is perishable. Review the concept of supply and demand.
There are factors that are not based on nature, in this scenario. In 1992, U.S. helicopters providing aid were shot down in this region. Since 2008, 14 relief workers in Somalia were killed, as they attempted to deliver aid to starving citizens for the United Nations.
Have students read the “headline” entry: U.S. Pledges Aid for Somalia Famine Victims
(Students will use the linked photo essay for a later activity.)
Throughout the Horn of Africa, including in southern Sudan, citizens in search of medical treatment for malnutrition are subjected to violence as they travel. Gangs and militants, knowing that the famine, drought, and hunger, make others more vulnerable, may attack cattle, before people, knowing the devastating effect this will have on a community. A lack of infrastructure due to generations of violence in a region, makes delivery of supplies especially difficult, and dangerous.
Ask students to consider the conditions the United States placed on the aid being provided. While $28 million of support will be supplied in Somalia, it will not go to victims living in the dangerous areas under the control of al-Shabbab, a group associated with al-Qaida, where more than half of the residents are starving.
In addition to direct physical attacks on workers, citizens and livestock, some of the assistance provided in the past has been taken by authorities in these areas and “taxed” before it is given to those who need the resources to survive, as if it were income. This was a factor in the decision of U.S. authorities to offer aid under strict conditions. The aid is not to supply funding and support to these groups.
Have students read the one page-article, "Somalia famine: US pledges a further $28m in aid."
Step 3: Have students discuss, or write a response to the question: If it appropriate to withhold aid if providing the aid puts those delivering it at risk for harm, or even death?
Ask students to think about how many lives are impacted by one relief worker, or how many supplies can be provided by one helicopter. If a doctor in a makeshift hospital has the capacity to help 20 victims of malnutrition, but 10 more are attacked en route to the hospital, what are the chances of survival for any of his patients? What happens if the doctor is killed?
NOTE: Teacher may wish to review the rules for having a respectful discussion, or encourage students to express their thoughts on paper first.
Show students the 2 minute, PBS NewsHour video “Children in Sudan Rely on Field Hospital for Food.”
Step 4: Have students share their ideas, if they are documented on paper, and talk about what impact the video did or did not have on their opinion.
As an assessment task, show students the photo essay called Drought Threatens the Horn of Africa.
In eight small groups or individually, depending on class size, ask students to write a new caption for each image, that has a hopeful ending, as if this image were taken a year ago, and the famine has ended.
Include in the caption the following information:
-Where was the image created?
-What factors contributed to the circumstances in the image being reversed (another hospital was built, the family emigrated to a safer village, the child was able to access nutritious foods)?
-What is likely to change in this community with the improved circumstance?