AMREF panel discussion on mitigating effects of droughts in East Africa
Having just returned from Kenya, where I saw the devastating effects of the famine in the Horn of Africa, it was with great interest that I moderated a compelling and provocative discussion entitled “Mitigate Effects of Recurring Droughts and Famines: Invest in Health Development” on the first day of the U.N. High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases” Sept. 19-20 in New York.
Twelve million people are affected by the worst drought in that region in 60 years, and the majority are women and children (3.5 million people in Kenya and half of those are children). By some estimates, 300,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and are likely to die at a very high rate and likely to die very very quickly.
In Kenya, I saw two very different areas — Turkana, in northwest Kenya, very rural with almost no access to clean water and virtually no infrastructure, and Kibera, a hyper-urbanized slum area in the middle of Nairobi. But the effects of the drought were equally devastating to families. During the past six months, food prices have skyrocketed by 24% alone in the month of July and are beyond the means of most families to pay.
So AMREF organized this panel discussion to call attention to the problem and try to identify options to mitigate such unnecessary human suffering.
We were fortunate to have a distinguished panel and honored guests: Her Excellency Ida Odinga, wife of Kenya’s Prime Minister; the Honorable Amina Salum Ali, Ambassador from the African Union to the United States; Phillipe Lazzarini of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; Elizabeth Lwanga of UN Women; and Werner Schultink of UNICEF.
Several important points came out of the discussion: