Horn of Africa struggles to cope with drought, famine and Somalia's refugees.

Kenya’s ambassador to the U.S., Elkanah Odembo, said at CARE International’s headquarters in Atlanta that his government “at the highest levels” has resisted any initiatives to close down the border with Somalia as a way of keeping out the continuing flow of refugees into his country.

He added, however, that the humanitarian efforts currently in place were inadequate to deal with the crisis and that it went beyond the abilities of East Africa’s intergovernmental authorities to cope with it by themselves,

Mr. Odembo attended a program of the Young Leaders of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta on Nov. 29 concerning the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Speakers at the briefing in addition to Mr. Odembo included Jonathan Mitchell, chief operating officer of CARE USA; Abdirahman Mahamud, a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Peter D. Little, director of development studies at Emory University and Nuradin Osman, director, Africa and Middle East Operations, AGCO Corp.

Drought and violence has been driving Somali refugees into northeastern Kenya into the Dadaab refugee camp, which was set up in the early 1990s for 90,000 people and now is housing more than 460,000 – exceeding the populations of all of the cities in Kenya with the exception of Nairobi and Mombasa.

The drought has caused a famine in the region that has put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk. Violent inter-clan rivalries have exacerbated relief efforts and prevented Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government from having any effective control over the country, which has been in a state of anarchy since 1991. 

According to the website of the U.S. State Department, the U.S. has poured $580 million this year into the Horn of Africa including Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

U.S. funding has been supporting the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which is the main coordinator of all the non-governmental organizations.

CARE has a leading role in providing humanitarian relief, said Mr. Mitchell, providing water, food and livestock. He added that the organization also had projects aimed at providing long-term benefits besides immediate relief. These include providing education to the tens of thousands of children in the camp and special assistance to women and girls who have suffered from sexual violence.

Dr. Little traced the origins of the chaos in Somalia to the fall of the national government in 1991 and the inability of the country to form a government since then.

Dr. Mahamud described the nutritional support babies at the camp were receiving and had photographs showing the extreme malnutrition of one baby when it arrived at the camp and its much improved appearance several months later.

He also described the extensive efforts to combat contagious diseases.

Mr. Osman spoke of the responsibilities of Somalis abroad to support their homeland, but also said that the millions of dollars of remittances that were sent to Somalia often contributed to supporting clans engaged in internecine violence.

Nevertheless, he was confident about the continent’s future and described plans that AGCO, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery, had to establish a presence in Ghana, South Africa and East Africa.

For more World Affairs Council of Atlanta events, go here.