The EU’s initial response to East Africa’s drought and famine was uneven – and while it has pledged over €750 million, the crisis still threatens hundreds of thousands of lives.
Drought gripped the Horn of Africa in July, resulting in famine in parts of Somalia. By the third quarter of the year, European officials estimated that more than 13 million people were at risk of starvation. Hundreds of thousands of refugees also left Somalia, where food shortages threatened to exacerbate the already-dreadful security situation there – which the EU has tried to improve. The initial European response to the famine was mixed. The UK and the European Commission rapidly pledged significant quantities of aid, and were credited with galvanising the international response to a crisis that initially won little attention, but other member states lagged behind. Figures suggested that the UK had given nearly $200 million to help in the crisis and the European Commission had given close to $200 million, while France donated only $75 million and Germany only $60 million. The Nordic countries and the Netherlands were also leading donors and Italy focused its humanitarian aid on Somalia.
The overall European response to the crisis eventually passed €750 million, representing roughly two-thirds of all international assistance, which was channelled through UN organisations and NGOs. This humanitarian assistance did help limit the impact of famine in some regions, although it is worth noting that it is significantly less than the EU pledged after the Haitian earthquake in 2010. Islamist rebels barred or disrupted aid deliveries in areas of Somalia under their control. By contrast, Somali pirates did not interfere with aid shipments, which the EU naval force in the Indian Ocean is tasked with protecting. The drought also reinforced existing concerns about the Horn of Africa. In November, the European Council published its first strategy for the region, which included references to the need to maintain impartial humanitarian aid deliveries. As of December, the EU estimated that a quarter of a million Somalis were still at risk of starvation, and that this crisis could continue into mid-2012. The EU will likely remain engaged in humanitarian aid to the Horn indefinitely.
|Leaders: Denmark - Finland - Germany - Ireland - Italy - Netherlands - Sweden - United Kingdom|
|Slackers: Belgium - Estonia - Hungary - Latvia - Lithuania - Romania|