Famine: Preparing for the worst humanitarian crisis in 70 years

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Twenty million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeastern Nigeria have been grappling with a serious food crisis since 2016. Several East African countries have been hit by drought in recent months, including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan and, to a lesser extent, Tanzania. In some countries, conflicts have caused severe food shortages. Handicap International is preparing to deal with one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War.

“In this region of Africa, large parts of the population live in very unstable conditions," explains Jeroen Stol, Handicap International's regional head of mission in East Africa. "Thousands of families live in villages without access to health care or clean water. Imagine the difficulties faced by the elderly or people with disabilities when the whole region is struck by a food crisis. Our absolute priority is to be there to support them." 

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SOMALIA

In Somalia, Handicap International is working with other humanitarian organizations to train them about the needs of the most vulnerable people, including people with disabilities, older people, children, pregnant woman, and others. The goal of these awareness sessions is to ensure these individuals are not forgotten and their needs are met in each actor's emergency response.

The organization will also prioritize long-term access to water and food: “After months of severe drought, the rainy season, which is starting now, could spell disaster," explains Xavier Duvauchelle, the head of the organization’s programs in East and Southern Africa. "A second drought is expected from July. Our aim is therefore to give affected people sustainable access to food and water. This could entail digging wells and cultivating land to grow agricultural products resistant to climate change.”

Handicap International also plans to provide malnourished children with physical therapy. “Many malnourished children may need support from a physiotherapist to prevent the onset of permanent disabilities," Duvauchelle adds. "Children affected by famine may have a developmental delay caused by under nutrition. Malnutrition can also lead to respiratory infections and physical therapists can intervene to prevent complications.”

Under these circumstances, Handicap International may also organize awareness sessions to teach parents how to detect problems.

SOUTH SUDAN

In South Sudan, Handicap International ensures the needs of people with disabilities, older people, pregnant women, children, and others are taken into account in humanitarian programs implemented by international aid organizations.

We plan to distribute food and water, supply rehabilitation care and provide psychological support sessions if needs are not adequately covered by humanitarian organizations already working in the field.

YEMEN

In Yemen, two years of fighting have given rise to widespread food insecurity: “The war in Yemen has seriously disrupted food imports and considerably reduced the livelihoods and sources of income of households,” says Arnaud Pont, the manager of the organization’s emergency operations in Yemen. Handicap International’s teams in the field are currently assessing needs in view of a possible response.

UGANDA

In Uganda, Handicap International works to support the care and treatment of South Sudanese refugees who, in addition to fleeing violence in their country, are facing a serious drought. Our goal is to assist the most vulnerable people–people with disabilities, older people, pregnant women, etc.–and people with psychosocial impairments–people who are traumatized or isolated, etc. Uganda is now the third largest refugee-hosting country in the world.

Our teams are working to obtain international funding in order to deploy teams in aid of South Sudanese refugees who, in addition to fleeing violence in their country, are faced with a serious drought. This mission will also gather more detailed information on the situation in South Sudan where access to humanitarian aid is still extremely difficult, due to the security situation.

ETHIOPIA

In Ethiopia, Handicap International runs physical therapy sessions to assist the development of malnourished children. Ethiopia is host to large numbers of South Sudanese refugees who are fleeing war and drought. Our teams are working to ensure that water points and sanitary facilities are accessible for people with disabilities and/or reduced mobility. In the regions of Gambella and Dire Dawa, Handicap International is providing refugees and local individuals the means to cope with the climate crisis.