Congresswoman Waters Urges Famine Relief for Horn of Africa; Opposes Cuts to Development Aid in Foreign Operations Bill
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) joined her colleagues yesterday to call for a comprehensive effort to save the lives of millions of people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa. She made the following statement in the Congressional Record:
"The people of the Horn of Africa are facing a devastating crisis. A severe drought has left millions of children, women, and men in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti malnourished. Many are on the verge of starvation. According to the World Food Program, more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa require food assistance due to the drought.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reports that below-normal spring rains in the eastern Horn of Africa led to below-normal harvests and shortages of water and grazing resources for livestock. Livestock health has deteriorated markedly, and milk production has declined significantly. Food prices throughout the eastern Horn of Africa continued to rise during the month of June, contributing to food insecurity for the population.
The conditions in Somalia are especially severe. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), which is supported by USAID, two areas of southern Somalia are already experiencing famine. Famine exists when at least 20 percent of the population has extremely limited access to basic food requirements, acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent, and the death rate exceeds 2 out of every 10,000 people per day for the entire population. Death rates are above the famine threshold in two areas and are elevated across the south. Tens of thousands of people have already died in the past three months.
FEWS NET projects that famine will spread across all regions of southern Somalia within one to two months. The network estimates that 3.7 million people are in crisis nationwide, and 3.2 million of them require immediate, lifesaving assistance. These severe conditions are expected to remain at least through December of this year. FEWS NET has declared this Africa's worst food security crisis since Somalia's 1991-1992 famine.
The effects of the drought in Somalia have been exacerbated by the lack of an effective central government and continuing conflict with al-Shabaab terrorists.
Drought has also affected Kenya and Ethiopia, where the situation is complicated by the arrival of large numbers of refugees from Somalia, many of them suffering from acute malnutrition.
The U.S. Government has already spent a total of approximately $458.7 million on humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa during fiscal year 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement on July 20th expressing concern on behalf of the U.S. government. She noted that additional international assistance for the region is needed and announced an additional $28 million in U.S. assistance to Somalia and Somali refugees in Kenya. However, more needs to be done. FEWS NET has called for an immediate, large-scale, and comprehensive response to save tens of thousands of lives.
I am deeply concerned that the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012, which was marked up yesterday, will not provide sufficient funds for critical priorities like these. The bill includes an 18 percent cut in development assistance, which funds projects such as food security and basic education. The bill also cuts international disaster assistance by 12 percent compared to the fiscal year 2011 level and a shocking 42 percent compared to the fiscal year 2010 level. Such drastically reduced funding levels will not allow the United States to help millions of people in need or respond to emergencies, such as famines, hurricanes and earthquakes.
I have seen children who were starving. It is a terrible sight to see. We cannot sit by idly and allow thousands of children to die and not take any action to help them. To do so would be contrary to our national interests and contrary to our values.
I call upon my colleagues and indeed all Americans to show compassion to our brothers and sisters in Africa. And I call upon the U.S. Government to organize a comprehensive effort to save the lives of millions of hungry people throughout the Horn of Africa."