Scarlett Johansson tours Horn of Africa to see drought impact
American actress Scarlett Johansson spent time this week in the Horn of Africa in her role as Oxfam Ambassador to see first hand the impact of the East African drought.
More than 13 million people are at risk of starving to death in the Horn of Africa's nations of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. In Somalia the condition is so dire that it has become a famine.
Somali refugees are coming to refugee camps for their only hope of food in the areas affected. Scarlett Johansson was at one of these camps, Dadaab refugee camp, this week and witnessed the tens of thousands of people suffering from the lack of food in their nation.
"The scale of poverty in Dadaab is overwhelming," said Johansson in a statement from Oxfam. "I met countless women like Hawa, a local community leader, who lamented the seemingly endless struggle of the Somali people, as refugees of war and starvation and now left to suffer everyday life with the very barest of essentials."
Johansson, an Oxfam Ambassador since 2004, also visited in Kenya where villages are dealing with droughts that have placed the people in extreme poverty.
"This is a long-term and escalating crisis exacerbated by political conflict, famine and drought that can no longer be ignored. Over half the Somalis that have died are children; an entire generation lost. This is no longer an issue that can only garner some attention, some of the time. Extreme action must be taken by the global community now," she said.
Daily the death toll increases in the Horn of Africa simply because there is no food. Mothers are taking death marches with their children hoping to reach refugee camps. Each day thousands are crossing the border from Somalia to Kenya and Ethiopia for makeshift camps. These camps are being set up in conflict zones.
It will be almost another year before the next harvest. Only then can the region can even hope to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Rainfall is expected to be below average from October to December.
Its not just the climate that has been behind the severe poverty that has lead up to so many people losing their lives because of a lack of food. With so little food available the cost of what is there is out of reach for those who are afflicted with poverty. In northern Kenya alone the cost of milk has risen by 300 percent.
Humans have perished but so has the livestock many rely on for their daily meals. In Kenya and Ethiopia 60 percent of herds have died. Without livestock farmers have no income. No income means no hope.
The world is helping but this is not a short term crisis. In the long run donors are needed to help people regain their lives. That requires the local governments to work with agencies to insure that their people who are in need are helped.
Immediate needs will cost $1 billion to curb the death toll.
Oxfam is working towards the needs that are needed today and those that are in the future. One way they are doing this is by buying up weak livestock to give an income to their owners and meat for the community.
Another service that Oxfam has undertaken is a health program in Somalia giving clean water to 329,000 Somalian refugees in camps outside of Mogadishu. In Mogadishu there is a therapeutic feeding program for mothers and their children. Each week they are feeding over 3,000 children. 56,000 children have been treated at the site this year.