Hunger in the Horn of Africa: “Only to provide relief is to dry with the tap”

If 14 million people have too little to eat, you want to do something about it now. That is why the Red Cross is tackling the food shortage in the Horn of Africa with food, water, cash and medical care. But that should not be the only thing, says Derk Segaar, head of International Aid at the Dutch Red Cross, from Ethiopia. Why we work on short-term and long-term solutions.

“‘Our options are drying up. Literally.’ My colleague from a local branch of the Ethiopian Red Cross explains how difficult life has become for the nomadic shepherds in the southern Ethiopian Somali region that I visit. There are fewer and fewer places where water can be found for their animals. For example, a water reservoir at Jijiga has been completely dried out for the first time since the dam was built in the 1970s. People are standing at the bottom of the reservoir itself, digging for water. it is almost apocalyptic that the cradle of humanity is once again on the brink of a famine catastrophe.

Start with the causes

That hunger is due to periods of drought is not new and can also be explained logically. However, other dynamics are at play here as well. Not only has the rainy season been absent for years, the virus pandemic, the locust plague, political conflicts and the war in Ukraine also affect the amount of food available to people in large parts of the world. And this is where complexity begins, because the direct and indirect causes of hunger are intertwined and mutually reinforcing. And if you do not know the specific cause of a problem, then how can you work on a solution?

The solution? Do not dry with an open tap

Of course, emergency aid is currently being provided in the Horn of Africa, where hunger is killing victims: the Red Cross provides water points, distributes food and cash, helps malnourished people get to health clinics and helps vaccinate and feed livestock.

We look at how nature can help you prevent disasters

Derk Segaar – Leader of the International Aid Dutch Red Cross

But only to provide relief is mopping with an open tap. We know this all too well in the humanitarian sector. That is why we have been working on sustainable solutions for years; Since 2011, the Red Cross Princess Margriet Foundation has provided support through innovative projects that focus on sustainable disaster preparedness. These projects ultimately prevent a lot of damage and suffering.

Let nature lend a hand

We have also known for some time that our climate is changing. This new reality requires significant adjustments, which is why the Red Cross is focusing on ‘nature-based solutions’; solutions that look at how nature can help you prevent disasters. Think, for example, of planting trees and restoring mangrove forests that provide protection in the event of floods.

Here in Ethiopia, in an area near the city of Jijiga, the Red Cross installed a series of micro-dams called “water-spreading dams”. These ensure that short, heavy rain showers do not immediately pull parts of the slope and erode fertile soil, but rather lower the water flow, so to speak. Because the water stays in the dams, the soil has more time to absorb the water and the groundwater level rises. “This is the only lake in the area,” the village chief tells me. “My community returns to this village to sow the dammed area before the new rainy season begins.” In this way, even a disappointing rainy season is optimally utilized.

Another inspiring example of sustainable nature solutions in Ethiopia is starting a nursery with drought-resistant trees and crops; including income-generating crops. In the coming period, 70,000 seedlings will have to be planted to make the dehydrated soil greener. In this way, the communities, hardest hit by extreme weather events, eventually become more resilient. And then there is still hope in the Horn of Africa, despite the hunger. “

Help Horn of Africa!

In the Horn of Africa, 14 million people do not have enough to eat. The Red Cross helps with solutions in the short and long term. Do you want to help too? donate further Giro 6251 (IBAN: NL58INGB0000006251

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