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Desperate hunger

Drought. Conflict and armed violence. High energy costs. Climate change. Inequities in food production and distribution. Changes to traditional pastoral and agricultural systems. Donor fatigue. These are a few reasons why 1 billion people go hungry or malnourished every day, despite ample global food production, according to IFRC’s World Disasters Report 2011. The crisis in the Horn of Africa is an extreme example and it highlights why food insecurity is one of the Movement’s most vexing humanitarian and diplomatic challenges. As the Movement deploys urgent life-saving aid to millions, it must also advocate for sustainable, local solutions in a world jaded by recurring natural and man-made crises. These photos, from the Horn of Africa and beyond, highlight the causes and consequences of hunger — and offer some images of hope for home-grown humanitarian solutions.

Well before the most recent drought cycle, the ICRC and the Somalia Red Crescent Society were providing emergency medical and food assistance throughout Somalia, including areas controlled by rebels. Above, a worker for the Somalia Red Crescent constructs a shelter at a camp for displaced people in Puntland.
Photo: ©Olav Saltbones/ICRC

Even before drought and conflict forced a massive migration into Kenya and Ethiopia, violence and food insecurity had already displaced thousands of people to makeshift camps in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, where they faced the prospect of famine. Below, a woman and child who have just arrived at a temporary camp in Mogadishu’s Hodan district. Photo: ©REUTERS/Feisal Omar, courtesy www.alertnet.org

In north-east Kenya, near the Somali border, the drought has lasted for four years. Water holes have dried up and people spend all their energy hauling water. Already facing competition for grazing land, nomadic people here have lost almost all their goats, cattle and camels — their primary investment and their only source of money and food.
Photo: ©Jakob Dall/Danish Red Cross

In north-east Kenya, near the Somali border, the drought has lasted for four years. Water holes have dried up and people spend all their energy hauling water. Already facing competition for grazing land, nomadic people here have lost almost all their goats, cattle and camels — their primary investment and their only source of money and food.
Photo: ©Jakob Dall/Danish Red Cross

With a population of roughly a half a million, Kenya’s Dadaab camp is the world’s largest refugee encampment. A testament to the chronic nature of armed violence in neighbouring Somalia and of food insecurity in the region, the UNHCR camp is more than two decades old; many teenagers here have known no other home. Right, refugees gather for prayer.
Photo: ©REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst, courtesy www.alertne.org

The Horn of Africa is not the only area where climatic events are causing food shortages. Around the world, floods, tropical storms and wildfires ruin crops that are essential to large populations. Lake Penuelas, on the outskirts of Valparaiso, Chile has all but dried up. Food prices have soared as a result, leaving the country’s poorest citizens the hardest hit.
Photo: ©REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez, courtesy www.alertne.org

Food insecurity is not always an issue of food availability. Globally, there is sufficient food to feed a growing population. But even though there is ample food, more than a billion people go hungry. One of the least understood causes are the commodities markets. Photo: ©REUTERS/Kevin Coombs, courtesy www.alertnet.org

Speculation in cities such as London, Tokyo or Chicago can affect food prices as far away as India, where food price inflation has recently been in double-digits.
Photo: © REUTERS/Ajay Verma, courtesywww.alertnet.org

Despite the despair engendered by chronic food insecurity, there are reasons for hope. Sustainable food and livelihoods development is putting the power of food production in local hands. A big part of the US$ 10 million raised by the Kenya Red Cross Society’s ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ campaign, for example, goes towards agricultural development. In Somalia, ICRC projects have dramatically increased grain production and livestock health, while Movement efforts elsewhere have transformed aid-dependent communities into food producers. In the Maphungwane (right) area of Swaziland, members of the Swaziland Red Cross grow vegetables on small lots as part of a food-security and income-generating programme. Photo: ©Yoshi Shimizu/FICR

Below, the Tana River Drought Recovery Project in Kenya helps former pastoralists earn money by growing bananas, mangos, papayas, peppers, tomatoes and melons on 33 nearby farms. Still, armed conflict remains one of the most intractable barriers to durable food security in the Horn of Africa and around the globe. Both a cause and an effect of food insecurity, conflict poses perhaps the most difficult diplomatic challenge for those trying to find long-term food security solutions.
Photo: ©Jonathan Kalan/IFRC


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