There are countless social problems in countries all around the world, but arguably there are more in developing countries, such as those in Africa. Furthermore, what can begin as a problem caused by nature, such as a drought, can soon become a social problem with many facets. In her article, East Africa Food Crisis 2011, Shah describes how the worst food crisis is taking place in East Africa, namely in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Published on July 31, 2011, on the Global Issues website, the piece explains how in spite of consecutive futile rains, the emergency has been assessed as unnecessary and man-made, as the situation had been foreseen numerous months prior by a global early warning system. Both international and local governments have been blamed for taking little action in the approach to this emergency. Furthermore, high food prices have caused many people to not be able to afford it. Meanwhile, war in Somalia has worsened the state of affairs (Shah, 2011).
The main points of this article are that early warning systems had predicted the food crisis many months before it occurred, that there was a huge funding deficit, that the 2011 crisis has been one of the worst in the recent past, and that media coverage of the emergency has been erratic and unhelpful. Shah’s view that the media were unhelpful is important, as television and newspapers are the means through which many people learn about what is happening all over the world. Without accurate information from the media, many people are unlikely to find out the truth.
Shah quotes the words of Inter Press Service, who claim that the globe had a chance to prevent thousands of deaths that are occurring in areas of Somalia as a result of the famine, if only governments had taken heed of the early warning systems that forecast the crisis over seven months prior. They contend that there has been a disastrous collapse of the world's shared duty to take action. Apparently, at the time of this article being written, 3,500 people were escaping Somalia every day and setting up camp in areas of Ethiopia and Kenya that were experiencing one of the most arid years in 60 years. By the time the U.N. declares the situation a famine, a large number of lives have already been lost.
Shah points out that many pre-emptive measures could have been taken, supposing funds were accessible at an earlier time. Shah quotes an Oxfam spokesperson as she explains that if a sign of such a crisis shows up, the world should not simply wait for it to become an emergency. Irrigation systems could have been installed, making appropriate use of funds. Furthermore, individuals could have been vaccinated against predicted diseases, and decent organisation of food aid put in place, in advance of the need. As these pre-emptive measures were not taken, the problem grew into a much larger one for the people of East Africa.
In comparison to earlier famines, this state in Somalia is as dire or even more so than those discussed through recent years in Niger (2005), Ethiopia (2001), Sudan (1998) and Somalia (1992) (Shah). Nevertheless, this is the harshest food security crisis in Africa since the Somalia famine in the early 1990s. Furthermore, the Somalia crisis in question is anticipated to have an progressively overwhelming influence on other countries in the area (Shah, 2011).
Shah explains how media coverage has been erratic throughout the crisis. Apparently, at times there have been full reports, often in response to a government request for the crisis to be tackled and publicised. At other times, however, the exposure has disappeared from headlines soon after reporting has begun (Shah, 2011).
This article has taught me about the avoidable element of the 2011 famine in East Africa. Furthermore, it details the early warning systems that predicted the crisis and how that, in spite of these, governments failed to act in supplying funds to avert the situation. However, what seems to be missing from the article is information on what could be done to help alleviate the crisis, once it had occurred. Shah does well in highlighting the mistakes that have been made prior to the emergency, but dedicates less time to offering an opinion on how the world can move forwards in terms of helping the people of East Africa.
While the food crisis started out as an assumed result of drought, it soon became clear that the social side of the problem was avoidable. The famine had wide reaching effects on the people of East Africa and resulted in much illness and death which, according to Shah, could have been lessened, if not avoided altogether. Food crises such as this one can cause huge social problems in Africa and, sadly, it seems that they will continue to do so. Articles like Shah’s serve to inform people around the world of the side of crises that media less commonly shows. This kind of information is vital if the globe is ever going to stop these pointless loss of lives from occurring.
Shah, A. (2011). East Africa Food Crisis 2011. Global Issues. 31 July 2011. Retrieved from http://www.globalissues.org/article/796/east-africa-food-crisis#Mediacoverage