2011-09-01 15:08:00

The face of a famine

Somalis are continuing to flee from the drought and conflict in their homeland as the worst famine for decades in the Horn of Africa region bites harder. The disaster has already killed tens of thousands of people, especially children.

But what are the underlying reasons for this tragedy and could we see a similar famine in the future unless more effort is put into finding long-term solutions to food and water insecurity? Susy Hodges spoke to two members of the Caritas Internationalis confederation who have both recently returned from the Horn of Africa region.

Laura Sheahen visited the huge Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya on behalf of Catholic Relief Services where hundreds of Somalis refugees arrive each day. She says the people arriving there "have walked for weeks, even months" and because the camp is so overcrowded many of the latest arrivals are having to build makeshift shelters that are "usually a bunch of sticks, covered with scraps of cloth or plastic bags... and a lot of them are even sleeping out in the open."

She also toured the hospitals in the camp and said "seeing the malnourished children was very disturbing" and added that although she'd seen a lot of refugee situations in the past, the current famine situation was the worst she'd witnessed: "I've never seen hunger on such a massive scale before.."

Alastair Dutton is the Emergency Programme Manager for Caritas Internationalis and recently returned from a tour of Kenya and Ethiopia. He talks about the complex underlying reasons for the current tragedy: "the drought is definitely very severe and .... there are many many carcasses of dead animals" on the ground. Asked if he thinks we could see a similar famine in the future unless long-term preventative solutions are put in place he replies: "Quite definitely and that's true across that whole sub-Saharan belt ... from Mauritania to Somalia ... there will certainly be future droughts". Dutton says one of the reasons for this is because the climate in that whole belt "is becoming more erratic, more hostile."

Listen to the report by Susy Hodges: RealAudioMP3

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