African Union Summit: Famine in the Horn of Africa

The African Union summit took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last August 25, it was organized by the African Union commission with the aim to raise funds for the Horn of Africa, on the following terms:

One Africa – One Voice Against Hunger 

The African Union Commission[i], concerned about the humanitarian, food and nutritional crises occasioned by the drought situation in the Horn of Africa decided to organize a pledging conference to raise resources and awareness amongst AU Member States and the wider international community towards alleviating the plight of the affected populations in the region. Once again the Horn of Africa, and in particular, Somalia, is gripped with severe drought situation which has now escalated to the point of famine being declared in two regions in Somalia. The drought situation is said to be the driest year since 1950-51 in 11 or 15 analyzed pastoral zones. The situation has rendered a staggering estimated number of over 11.5 million people (with 3.3 million affected in Somalia alone) to be in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. There is a growing concern that the negative impact of the drought will continue to increase. It is equally important to note that other countries in the region have also been affected and the magnitude of the crisis is a growing concern across the Horn of Africa. The only difference is that the affected countries are currently at different level of coping capacities and disaster mitigation. At the extreme is Somalia, where governance has withered and state institutions are non-functional due to the protracted conflict situation.

It is important to recognize the fact that there is already a cohort of international efforts underway to raise awareness and resources to intervene in the current situation. The need at the moment has been put between US$500-600 million.

African Commission officials announced that raised around $351 million, but in fact $300 million come from a loan of the African Development Bank which will be disbursed over the next four years, so that the loan funds are not available for the current emergency.

After the summit of the African Union, the criticisms were directed toward African leaders, since only four heads of state -Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea- attended.

On the other hand, only 21 countries of the African Union (comprising 54 countries) promised to contribute with $46 million, of which $20 million come from three states: Algeria, Angola and Egypt.

Another point to note was that small countries like Gabon and Gambia made ​​a commitment beyond what was expected, given the size of their economies, while larger nations donated paltry sums, such as Nigeria that promised $2 million and South Africa -called economic power of the continent- that promised $1.3 million.

Some analysts say that many governments are reluctant to give money to aid groups, others reply that in this case governments can made in-kind contributions managed by their owns teams. Ordinary people say that governments have to face the emergency now, by one way or another.

Until now, unfortunately, just a few voices answered to the call of one Africa and one voice against hunger.