Famine and its causes in the Horn of Africa | Letters

Letters
A woman collecting grains left on the ground after a food distribution in Ganyiel, South Sudan. Photograph: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP/Getty Images

As members of the Eritrean community, we were deeply moved by the appeal for assistance in the Horn of Africa, launched by British aid organisations (Charities redouble efforts to avert east Africa famine, 15 March). But we cannot understand why Eritrea is not included in the appeal. Unicef has confirmed what we know from our friends and families inside the country. In a report in January, the agency said that the El Niño drought has hit half of all Eritrea’s regions. Acute malnutrition is widespread. As Unicef put it: “Malnutrition rates already exceeded emergency levels, with 22,700 children under five projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 ... Half of all children in Eritrea are stunted, and as a result, these children are even more vulnerable to malnutrition and disease outbreaks.”

This situation – confirmed by information smuggled out of Eritrea – has been denied by President Isaias Afwerki, who said in January last year that “the country will not face any crisis in spite of reduced agricultural output”. It would be unforgivable if the international community turned its back on the Eritrean people. While working in the country might be difficult, this should not be allowed to stand in the way of delivering aid to those who are in such dire need.
Selam Kidane Director, Release Eritrea UK, Noel Joseph Executive director, Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights UK, Redi Aybu EHDR UK

• Best wishes to John Bennington and the Ibba girls school in South Sudan (Letters, 16 March), but we need to be a bit more critical about post-colonial proposals for Marshall-type plans and Keynsian rescue packages. It was, after all, the efforts to establish sovereign infrastructure systems following independence in the 1950s and 1960s (the UK recognised Sudan in 1956) that led to cold-war-type confrontations and accusations of communist influence in the new states of Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Chad et al.

While the former European colonialists fought for continuing influence in these areas by sponsoring sectional interests within the new nations, weaponry flooded in, making the Horn of Africa the most densely armed area in the world. The consequent despoliation of communities and environments is today expressed as the threatened famine of 3 million people. The primary need of the people is not western-style educational patronage, but an end to the arms trade and multinational looting of resources.
Dr Ann Yaffe
London

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