A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Ten million people at risk in the region
A consortium of aid organizations today announced that Mary Robinson will travel this weekend to the drought stricken region of the Horn of Africa. The consortium – including Concern Worldwide, Trocaire and Oxfam – collectively reach in excess of a million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. They approached Mrs. Robinson, who is President of MRFCJ, a Foundation focussing on Climate Justice, to help ensure that the plight of people in the region remains firmly on global agendas.
Representatives of agencies including Justin Kilcullen, Director of Trocaire, Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, and Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern will accompany Mrs. Robinson on the trip. On behalf of the group, Tom Arnold said: “Mary Robinson is returning to the region almost two decades on from her 1992 visit to Somalia, when she issued a call to action to the world to not allow that country die. We hope that this trip will help shine a spotlight on the current crisis. It shows that millions of people are extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of climate that can quickly threaten their lives and livelihoods. Future climate change is likely to see temperatures rising in the region which would continue to impact on people's food security. Mr. Robinson has always acted as a voice for the voiceless and we are truly appreciative of her agreeing to travel with us.”
Mary Robinson added: “I welcome the invitation from the agencies to visit the Horn of Africa to see the impact that the drought has had on the poorest people. The people most affected are those who are not responsible for it. I hope my visit can highlight this injustice, increase awareness of the impacts of climate change and encourage the international community to respond.”
An estimated 10 million people are affected by drought across East Africa. Acute malnutrition has reached 37% and higher in some areas, more than double the benchmark threshold used to constitute an emergency. Prices of essential food items have skyrocketed, in some cases by more than 200%, as the price of the last livestock and assets that people are selling to buy grain falls sharply. More than 3,000 refugees are leaving Somalia daily, with children dying of causes related to malnutrition, exacerbated by the long journeys families have to make to reach emergency assistance. During the visit, Mrs Robinson will spend time with diverse communities affected by the drought including pastoralists in Northern Kenya suffering from the effects of land degradation, desertification and the effect of the drought; and refugees living in camps.
Oxfam's humanitarian response to the East Africa drought and food crisis
Watch: Oxfam's Alun McDonald explains the current situation and the causes of crisis
Notes to editors
About Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997), former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and founder and President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative (2002-2010), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. She is a member of The Elders; Chancellor of Dublin University; serves on several boards including the Global Compact and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; and is the President of Oxfam International . Mary returned to live in Ireland in 2010 and now serves as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.
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Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ)
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Save the Children
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