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  • Written by Mićo Tatalović

Forecasters 'warned of Horn of Africa drought' last year

The drought is the worst in 60 years, according to the UN. Photo: Flickr/Oxfam International[LONDON] Forecasting systems were warning about a serious drought in the Horn of Africa as much as a year ago — but communication problems between scientists and decision-makers meant the alerts went largely unheeded, according to forecasters.

Warnings about the drought — which the United Nations says is the worst in 60 years — were issued last August, when the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) released a brief on food security in East Africa following the declaration of a La Niña event, a cooling of the sea surface in the Pacific Ocean known to affect weather in Africa.

"We were very confident that the October to December rains were going to be poor," Chris Hillbruner, a food security early warning specialist with FEWS NET, told SciDev.Net. "And there was an increased likelihood that the March to May rains were going to be poor as well."

  • Written by IRIN aw/js/mw

Famine in East Africa: half a million children at risk of death

Thousands of families that have sought refuge in Mogadishu have found themselves without shelter, food, water, sanitation or health facilities. Photo: Mohamed Amin Jibril/IRIN.[NAIROBI] At least 500,000 malnourished children in the Horn of Africa's drought-affected areas risk death if immediate help does not reach them, Anthony Lake, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) executive director, has said.

These are the children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, whose clinical signs include swelling in the feet, legs or face caused by an extreme shortage of protein.

"This crisis is likely to deepen over the coming six months or so," Lake told a news conference in Nairobi on 17 July at the end of a visit to the northwestern Turkana region and Dadaab - home to thousands of Somali refugees - in the northeast.

  • Written by David Ralph

Mission Accomplished? How Africa views Irish missionaries

Picture of the first Missionary Sisters of St Columban to go to China in 1926, with Columban Fathers. Photo: Columban Father's Archive.The view from Africa of Irish missionaries who worked on the continent is overwhelmingly one of “great gratitude” and “affection”, according to a panel of speakers from Africa at a debate in the Irish Aid offices in Dublin to celebrate Africa Day on 25th May.

Rather than evaluating the legacy of the missionary movement from an Irish perspective, the debate, entitled “How Africa views Irish missionaries”, invited Africans themselves to discuss how they see the work of Irish missionaries in Africa.

“Our view of missionaries is usually mediated through the Irish media or missionary congregations themselves and this evening we are trying to turn the lens around and look at Irish missionaries from the African view,” explained Joe Humphreys, Irish Times journalist and author of God’s Entrepreneurs: How Irish Missionaries Tried to Change the World, who chaired the event.

Salome Mbugua, a native of Kenya and currently Director of the migrant network AkiDwA in Dublin, praised Irish missionaries for their pivotal role in promoting health and education across the continent. This success, said Ms Mbugua, rested with the fact that Irish missionaries shared the experience of being a colonized people with Africans.

  • Written by IRIN ah/mw

Djibouti: Food security critical as drought intensifies

Adero Abdulla, a mother of four, is one of thousands of pastoralists displaced by drought in Djibouti. Photo: Abdi Hassan/IRIN.[DJIBOUTI] A combination of drought and high food prices has affected at least 120,000 people in Djibouti, according to a joint rapid assessment of the impact of drought in rural areas by the government of Djibouti, UN agencies and FEWS Net.

"Both rural and urban households are affected by the drought at different levels, with 60,000 directly food-insecure in rural areas," Mario Touchette, the World Food Programme (WFP) representative in Djibouti, told IRIN.

Many Djiboutians have lost livestock and their coping mechanisms have progressively deteriorated due to recurring droughts in the past four to five years.

Touchette said many families who were previously able to have three meals a day had been reduced to one or two a day. Rural families have had to send some members of their families to urban areas as the food security situation becomes critical.


  • Written by IRIN am/mw

Central and East Africa: IRIN picks its best stories of 2010

Pastoralists are often dismissed by governments and left out of development programmes. Herders walk through a sand storm in an arid landscape near the border town of Moyale in northern Kenya. Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN.[NAIROBI] Here is a selection of the stories that IRIN picked as the best of the past year from central and eastern Africa, chosen to reflect the diversity of humanitarian issues affecting the vast region. They range from coverage of historical landmarks with global repercussions, such as Southern Sudan’s imminent referendum, to a project that makes a big difference to just a few people in a Kenyan slum. (This list does not include stories from Somalia, which, because of the extent of IRIN coverage of that country, has its own list.)

In January 2011, the long-held desire by the people of Southern Sudan to determine how and by whom they are governed comes to fruition in a referendum that will likely lead to the territory’s secession. This topic has generated such a volume of coverage by IRIN they have created a special page for it. This article examines the challenges involved in ensuring a peaceful divorce.

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