September 26, 2011
President, Japan International Cooperation Agency
More than 13 million people are suffering from the worst drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa.
This drought has been caused by a failure of normal rains in the region for the last two years and has resulted in crop failures and serious food shortages. The southern part of Somalia has been particularly hard hit and is now in a state of "famine". Refugees from this region had fled in large numbers to neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya. The drought situation has been further aggravated because of decades of civil war in Somalia and the steep rise in global food prices.
Facing this unprecedented crisis, JICA recently provided emergency supplies such as tents (JPY50 million to Kenya and JPY40 million to Ethiopia) to help refugees, in collaboration with the international community. The agency is already involved in ongoing projects to increase food production and to provide safe drinking water in this region and we are now planning to extend additional support without delay to help host communities which receive refugees.
JICA dispatched a needs survey mission to Kenya and Ethiopia in August in order to explore "disaster risk reduction" measures in the medium and longer term for these communities which live mainly in arid and semi arid regions. They include promoting food production, developing infrastructure to facilitate distribution of agricultural products and developing a draft master plan to revitalize the regional economy.
The root-cause of the famine is the ongoing conflict in Somalia and stabilizing that country should be an urgent priority for the international community. To help achieve that goal, JICA recently invited government officials from Somalia to Kenya to attend a four-day seminar on ways to strengthen local health care systems. We plan to expand such capacity development to other vital sectors.
When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11 this year African countries responded with both material and moral support. We were greatly encouraged by this warm support and now it is our turn to support the millions of people in the Horn of Africa facing their own crisis. In addition to our official projects, JICA staff have also launched an in-house voluntary donation campaign—underling that all of us-- international organizations, NGOs and individuals—should work together to overcome this crisis.