The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing one of the severest droughts ever experienced, the devastating effects of this drought has already claimed the lives of thousands of people whilst tens of millions of people continue to face serious food shortages in eastern Africa. During his visit to Somalia, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged international support to avert a famine in drought-stricken Somalia and curb the spread of cholera. According to the UN, 3.3 million people are in need of health support, almost half of the Somali population is in need of assistance, including 330,000 children who are acutely malnourished. Whilst the media has picked up upon the devastating situation in Somalia, across the border in the occupied Ogaden territory, no such statistics, figures or estimates have been offered by international agencies to account for the equally dire situation experienced by Somalis living in this region. In the last 72 hours alone more than 300 have died from Cholera inside the Ogaden. However, due to the Ethiopian Government’s complete restriction of international media and NGOs, there is no telling just how severe the situation in the region really is nor the number of deaths that have resulted from severe food shortages and lack of access to healthcare.
The Ethiopian government has imposed a trade embargo and strict restrictions on trade and movement on the Ogaden region, exacerbating this crisis even further. Civilians are unable to trade with neighboring Somalia nor gain access to necessary health care facilities. Around 7 million Somalis are estimated to inhabit the Ogaden region the majority of whom have been impacted by this drought. The most affected areas include the regions of Jarar (dhegahbuur), Qorahay (Qabridaharre) and Shabelle. Similarly deaths have been reported in Doollo, Afdheer and Liibaan regions. Villagers have reported the deaths of family members tending to their livestock found in remote areas days later mauled by wild animals. Many pastoralists have lost many if not all of their livestock on which they depend upon for their survival, whilst the lack of an effective government response through food safety nets and preventing the spread of cholera has proved fatal for the agro-pastoralist community.
EU development assistance to Ethiopia amounts to an estimated 160 million euros every year . Similarly, in 2016, the United States alone spent more than 371 million dollars in foreign assistance for the country. Yet no steps have been taken by the government to tackle the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in the region a kin that of the rest of the Horn. The gross mishandling of international aid and silence on the life- threatening condition of the majority of the population is not only atrociously inhumane, but tantamount to genocide. Somalia’s last famine in 2011 claimed over 260,000 lives, a repeat of this can and must be prevented through the provision of urgent medical relief and food aid to all those affected.
As OYSU, we condemn in the strongest possible terms, the structural measures (i.e. trade embargos) put in place by the Ethiopian government in order to starve out the population. These measures continue to exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and must be dismantled. In addition, we call upon international humanitarian organizations to immediately delivery much needed aid to the region.
Ogaden Youth & Student Union