As many as 12 million people in the Horn of Africa (Africa's northeast peninsula) are suffering severe malnutrition as a result of this summer's devastating drought and famine in the region. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has called this the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world and the worst drought the region has experienced in 60 years. Famine has been declared in two regions in southern Somalia - the area hit hardest by the drought - and several more regions are anticipated to reach those fatal levels in the coming weeks.
Each day, 3,500 migrate from Somalia into Kenya and Ethiopia in search of food, and many more die from starvation or conflict on their way. Kenya and Ethiopia are themselves strained by devastating food shortages and rising food costs and stretched far beyond their capacity. Kenya's Dadaab site, which was originally built to support 90,000 displaced persons, is currently home to 400,000 people in dire need of food and water, with an additional 65,000 waiting on its outskirts.
The Episcopal Church General Convention has committed to alleviating global poverty and hunger and meeting the other Millennium Development Goals. In response to the present crisis, Episcopal Relief and Development is working through Anglican and ecumenical partners in the Horn of Africa to support people affected by the drought. But we cannot do it alone. World governments must provide emergency and ongoing assistance in order to alleviate the devastating drought and famine.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton contributed $28 million in emergency funds to the region, but more is needed. The United Nations estimates that the region requires at least $1.6 billion in food assistance over the next year. Yet in the midst of this crippling and long-term crisis, the House Appropriations Committee has proposed reducing humanitarian aid by 12% and food assistance programs by 18%. Foreign aid and diplomacy make up just one percent of the federal budget (and these programs are just a fraction of that). The proposed cuts would reduce that percentage even further.