Famine response needs better science communication

By David Dickson

, by Science and Development Network (SciDev.Net)

The Horn of Africa drought exposes the continuing gap between our ability to predict disaster and to take effective humanitarian action.

Earlier this week, the UN declared the drought in southern Somalia had become so bad that it could be officially declared a famine — the first time the word had been applied to this region in almost 20 years.

The news came as little surprise to agencies that had been monitoring the lack of rainfall over the past year, which is partly linked to the La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean. They had predicted that a widescale shortage of food was highly likely to occur.

Despite these warnings, and the efforts of international agencies such as UNICEF to take pre-emptive action, the overall humanitarian response has so far been severely inadequate, and unable to prevent further deterioration in living conditions in the region.

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