Africa’s Battle With Humanitarian Crises

17 years into the 21st century and the African continent has yet to shed the image of despair and destitution that the rest of the world has of it. Speaking to the Security Council on the 11th of March 2017, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said that more than 20 million people faced the threat of starvation and famine in 4 countries, 3 being African countries; namely Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria. It was Mr. O’Brien’s opinion that ‘we stand at a critical point in history and that ‘we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.’ According to, more than 1.8 million people are facing starvation in Nigeria (with North East Nigeria being the most affected), 4.9 million in South Sudan and 2.9 in Somalia.

The ongoing crisis is the result of war in the three countries. War that has led to the displacement of people and their movement from what they called home in a bid to find safer places to live in, to children being forced out of school, famine, starvation and the ultimate disintegration of communities. In South Sudan, the fighting between government forces and rebels has taken its toll on the people and the disruption of their lives means they cannot afford to focus on agriculture and thus feed themselves. Boko Haram in Nigeria stands in the way of aid reaching its people while both nature and man contribute to the situation in Somalia. The country is currently grappling El Nino as well as the insurgency by the group Al Shabab.

South Sudan is now in its 4th year of war, after only 6 years of being a country. Prior to its ceding from North Sudan, the North was blamed for the problems in the South, but now brothers kill brothers thanks to politics and difference in tribe. Despite efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), no end to the war seems to be in sight. The East African Community on the other hand seems that is overwhelmed by the problems faced by its newest member. Despite failing to meet the bloc’s requirement that members should adhere to principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law and observance of human rights and social justice, South Sudan was accepted as a member. It is arguable that the earlier members approved South Sudan’s request to join because of the population of the country, which would mean a bigger common market and hoped that the country’s problems would go away somehow.

To solve the problem, both President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar should be made responsible for the war and its effects since they are the men at the top. Leadership should then be taken over by a democratically elected President, to be chosen by the people. The East African Community should step up and threaten to boot the country out of the bloc and deny them the advantages of membership. The United Nations should also impose a ban on the export of arms into the country to avoid the plundering of its resources on arms as opposed to the undertaking of development and ultimately the end of the war.

With a newly elected President, there is hope that Somalia will be saved. With support from its neighbors and the international community, stability can be brought into the country and ultimate focus can be shifted to the toll that climate has taken on it. The country has a good example in Puntland, which has managed to remain peaceful despite the ongoing conflict. The effects of change in climate can be dealt with by borrowing a leaf from Israel, an irrigation guru.

The Economic Community for West African States is one of the blocs in both Africa and the world at large that should be given a thumbs up for its seriousness. After its success with the Gambia, it has proved that cooperation can get problems solved. Its help could go a long way in solving the crisis in Northern Nigeria and end the suffering of those faced with drought and famine.

Wars have often been blamed on difference in ideology, difference mostly in religion, race and tribe. However, the above as well as gender are divisive because people want them to be and more often than not. They are scapegoats  used to justify why one human being would pick up a weapon and fight another or why they would make another suffer. What ails the world is greed; greed for power, greed for money, greed for wealth and so forth. Until that greed is got rid of, the world must refuse to give in to chaos, sorrow, disruption and pain.

Hawa Gaya