How the Web Is Responding to the Horn of Africa Famine
Following two rough years of drought in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations has declared famine in two regions of southern Somalia.
According to the UN, a famine means more than 30% of children in an area are malnourished, at least 20% of households face extreme food shortages and more than two people per 10,000 die each day.
Neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia are badly hurting as well. More than 12 million people are at risk of starvation as the region faces its worst drought in 60 years.
The situation in Somalia is particularly dire, as Al-Shabaab warlords (an Al-Qaeda affiliate organization) have until recently blocked foreign aid workers from the region. Somalis seeking food come to Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp, the largest U.N. refugee settlement in the world, by the thousands each day.
The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) began airlifting food to Mogadishu, Somalia, Dolo, Ethiopia and Wajir, Kenya on Tuesday. The U.N. has raised $1 billion for the region since November 2010 but says it will need another $1 billion before the year’s end to prevent widespread starvation in the region.
While overcoming this humanitarian disaster — which the WFP calls the highest global humanitarian priority — will not be easy, thankfully creative attempts to help are sprouting up across the web.
Here are four ways the web is responding:
U2 frontman Bono and ONE brought 10 American mommy bloggers to Africa to connect with Kenyan mothers from July 23 to 30. The American moms shadowed community healthcare workers, met female farmers and visited one of Africa’s largest slums in Nairobi. The moms are sharing their experiences on their respective blogs, as well as on the organization’s blog, It Only Takes ONE Mom.
The bloggers and their readers are also discussing the trip on Twitter using the hashtag #ONEMoms
Like most major international crises today, Twitter is the go-to forum for Africans to discuss the situation on the ground. Users are asking for the international community to send aid to the starving region of the world’s poorest continent. The International Business Times reported twenty tweets per minute relate to the famine in East Africa, using the hashtags #HornOfAfrica, #Famine, #Drought, #Somalia, #Kenya and #Ethiopia.
Groups such as Kenyans4Kenya, a campaign of Kenyans helping other Kenyans, have started to respond to calls.
The WFP also has a social media initiative, WeFeedback, for sharing food with the world’s neediest.
Legendary reggae group The Wailers and artists Duane Stephenson and Bishop Lamont recorded “A Step for Mankind” to benefit the WFP’s work to combat drought in the Horn of Africa. While the YouTube video was recorded in September 2010, the escalation of the disaster from drought to famine has led to a resurgence of the single’s sales online.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of George Harrison’s The Concert for Bangladesh, a digital edition of the album will be released exclusively on iTunes on August 1. The two-part concert, organized by Harrison and Ravi Shankar in Madison Square Garden on August 1, 1971, was the first benefit of its magnitude in history.
All proceeds from the reissue sales will go to the George Harrison fund for UNICEF, benefiting the children affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.
To wit, UNICEF declared August a “Month for Giving,” with artists such as Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Brian Wilson, Selena Gomez, Enrique Iglesias, Arcade Fire and Nas committing to spread word of the campaign to their followers on Facebook and Twitter.
How You Can Help
If you would like to donate to the famine victims, here are some of the many sites collecting money:
- International Rescue Committee
- Mercy Corps
- Samaritan’s Purse
- Save the Children
- World Food Programme
- World Vision
Did we miss any Internet mobilizations for the Horn of Africa? Can technology stop a famine? Let us know in the comments.