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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
9 November 2011
Greg Kandra

In this image, captured in December 2008, a woman waits in line to retrieve water at a roadside water point outside of Debre Zeit, Ethiopia. (Photo: Peter Lemieux)

For several months, the news has been filled with stories of hardship and hunger from the Horn of Africa, as the region wrestles with the consequences of a devastating drought. According to Caritas Internationalis, some 10 million people have been affected. Now, the region will be getting some high profile visitors — and, presumably, more attention. The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has announced plans to visit the area in hopes of easing what she called the “terrible crisis” there.

Someone who knows the region well is CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Gerald Jones. He dropped us an email the other day that helps to put this situation in context.

Among other things, he noted, the “sheer size, both in geography and population, of the Horn in Africa, and the diverse populations and circumstances, make it difficult to generalize about conditions” in the region. He also said that it’s not entirely accurate to describe the region as being stricken by a “famine.” Some places are suffering more than others, but the issue really is one of drought — and, he added, “the drought is, indeed, very bad in the eastern lowland regions.”

In Ethiopia, he wrote, “not everyone is in crisis.” About 45 million peasant farmers had good rains this year, and should have a good harvest. Both Kenya and Ethiopia, he explained, have famine early warning systems (FEWS) that worked and that have helped to mitigate the situation. Unfortunately, that’s not true for Somalia.

The chaos in that country, wrote Gerald, “exacerbates the situation.” In fact, he said, there are “several Somalias” — the strife-ridden Somalia we read about in the press; the independent Somaliland; the autonomous Puntland; the independent Republic of Djibouti; and the Somali regions of Ethiopia and northeast Kenya.

Far from Africa, meantime, Pope Benedict XVI recently offered his prayers for those hit hard by the drought.

Last summer, meantime, Gerald Jones offered us a more detailed glimpse of the chronic struggles of East Africa.

Tags: Ethiopia Eritrea Hunger Drought Horn of Africa