Saturday, January 17, 2015

Final Assignment Plan

The following is the plan that I have put together for my final assignment in this course with amendments inspired by the feedback that I received included at the end.

Essay Plan

Title:                Foreseen Disaster: A Critical Analysis of the International Response in Relation to the 2011 Famine in Somalia

Question: What was the international response to the growing food crisis in Somalia, how was it influenced by contextual factors and how did it shape the course of the disaster?

Introduction (200 words)

·     Poor back-to-back rainy seasons in 2010 and 2011 caused severe drought and reduced harvests in the eastern Horn of Africa affecting an estimated 13 million people (Slim 2012).
·     The responses to the food shortages in Ethiopia and Kenya enabled both countries to prevent catastrophic consequences (Slim 2010). 
·     However, various factors including political insecurity, armed conflict and operating restrictions complicated aid efforts and exacerbated the crisis in Somalia (Checchi & Robinson 2013; Slim 2012).
·     Despite early warnings of forthcoming disaster, the situation continued to deteriorate without substantial intervention for 11 months before famine was declared.  The delayed response to the emergency has been deemed responsible for additional casualties.
·     Ultimately, the 2011 famine in Somalia resulted in approximately 258,000 deaths, a devastating rise in malnutrition rates and 417,000 displaced persons (Checchi & Robinson 2013; Lautze et al. 2012).

Overview of Events

Timeline (250 words)

·     August 2010, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) sent out the first warning of a probable drought in the area.
·     Poor rainy seasons from October to December 2010 (second or third in a row for some areas) resulted in poor harvests in January, increased cereal prices and decreased livestock production.
·     Warnings from Food Security and Nutritional Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and other organizations continued for 11 months.
·     Poor rainy season again from April to June 2011 led to crop failures and excess livestock mortality.
·     Drought in the area worst in 60 years; food prices reached a record high.
·     UN declares famine in two areas of Somalia on June 20th, 2011.
·     Famine declared in three additional areas on August 3rd, 2011 and one more on September 5th, 2011.
·     Increases in aid, good October and December rains in 2011 and lower food prices led to the official end of the famine on February 3rd, 2012.

Impacts of the Disaster (250 words)

·     An estimated 258,000 deaths.
·     Widespread malnutrition.
·     Long-term health and economic impacts of malnutrition, especially for children.
·     420,000 million displaced persons (253,000 left for Kenya and Ethiopia, 167,000 were internally displaced).
·     Outbreaks of cholera, measles and shigella, particularly among Somali famine refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya.
·     Violence against Somali women fleeing to refugee camps in Kenya.
·     Insecurity in refugee camps.
·     Psychological and emotional impacts of the famine.

Response (300 words)

·     Very little was done before the declaration of famine.
·     After the declaration, the anti-terror-related aid restrictions were lifted and there was a sharp and marked increase in funding.
·     Amount of funding raised was $1.3 billion.
·     Organisations involved (Islamic States and humanitarian groups, NGOs and UN agencies)
·     Details of cluster system, the UN’s Consolidated Appeal (CAP) and aid distribution in Somalia.
·     Various methods of aid used including cash and vouchers.

Context of Response (700 words)

Historical and Political Environment

·     History of conflict, drought, crippling poverty and lack of stable government made Somalia particularly vulnerable to disaster.
·     Previous famine in 1991-1992 caused by conflict, 200,000 deaths deemed preventable.
·     Al-Shabbab presence controlling areas creating a dangerous environment for aid workers and interfering with efforts.
·     European and U.S. anti-terror restrictions were imposed and organizations began pulling out of the area because of the conflict and fear of accusations of aiding terrorist forces.  However, these actions reduced the country’s capacity to react to the drought and rising food prices.

Economic Factors

·     Global recession affected availability of resources and the willingness of donors.
·     Donors and organizations limited their funding due to anti-terror initiatives.

Social Factors

·     Other events were occurring around the world at the same time that received more attention (i.e. political uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Cote d’Ivoire, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami as well as the separation of South Sudan).
·     There was a general sense of complacency about humanitarian issues in Somalia, meaning that widespread concern and action were not generated until circumstances were dire.
·     Organisations focused on distributing aid in circumstances where they could clearly see results.

Critique of Response

Successes of the Systems (200 words)

·     Early warning systems functioned well and recognised the forthcoming disaster well in advance.
·     Once famine was declared, the international community worked relatively quickly and effectively to better the situation.
·     Intervention methods eventually used were appropriate.

Shortcomings of the Systems (400 words)

·     No action was taken to prevent famine despite early warnings.
·     Delays in announcing famine: conditions were worse than the famine threshold at the time of declaration in impacted areas.
·     Limited access to areas and lack of humanitarian presence on the ground.
·     Organisations and countries lacked faith in fieldworker reports and analysts’ warnings that circumstances would be worse than a “normal bad year” and were more concerned with politics than the humanitarian agenda.
·     There was no real plan for action once famine was declared without the World Food Program (WFP) present in Somalia.

Lessons Learned (300 words)
·    The delay in the response to the growing food shortage and foreseen outcomes ultimately contributed to the course of the disaster by failing to prevent the famine.
·    The need to continue improving and utilising early warning systems.
·    Most importantly, ensuring that action follows early warnings before disaster hits in circumstances when famine is imminent.
·    Islamic States and organisations were able to function more easily in Somalia than Christian groups.

·      Conclusion (200 words)

·     Summary of the famine, response and consequences in Somalia.
·     Likelihood of more frequent extreme events including drought and food shortages in the future due to climate change.
·     Statement that famine is avoidable with appropriate intervention.
·     Considerations for improving response (perhaps lowering the threshold at which situation is considered a catastrophe).
·     Importance of learning from the 2011 famine in Somalia to better future responses.


Bailey, R 2013, Managing Famine Risk: Linking Early Warning to Early Action, A Chatham House Report, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, viewed 29 December 2014, <>.
BBC 2011, Somali famine spreads to three more areas says UN, viewed 17 December 2014, <>.
Checchi, F & Robinson, WC 2013, Mortality among populations of southern and central Somalia affected by severe food insecurity and famine during 2010-2012, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), Rome, Washington, viewed 17 December 2014, <>
FAO, IFAD & WFP 2014, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014, Strengthening the enabling environment for food security and nutrition, FAO, Rome, viewed 29 December 2014, <>.
Haan, N, Devereux, S & Maxwell, D 2012, ‘Global implications of Somalia 2011 for famine prevention, mitigation and response’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 74-79.
Hillbruner, C & Moloney, G 2012, ‘When early warning is not enough-Lessons learned from the 2011 Somalia Famine’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 20-28.
IPC Global Partners 2008, Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Technical Manual, Version 1.1, FAO, Rome, viewed 28 December, 2014, <>.
Lautze, S, Bell, W, Alinovi, L & Russo, L 2012, ‘Early warning, late response (again): The 2011 famine in Somalia’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 43-49.
Menkhaus, K 2012, ‘No access: Critical bottlenecks in the 2011 Somali famine’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 29-35.
Majid, N & McDowell, S 2012, ‘Hidden dimensions of the Somalia famine’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 36-42.
Maxwell, D & Fiztpatrick, M 2012, ‘The 2011 Somalia famine: Context, causes and complications’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 5-12.
McCloskey Rebelo, E, Pros, M-A, Renk, S, Guduri, S & Hailey, P 2012, ‘Nutritional response to the 2011 famine in Somalia’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 64-73.
Penuel, KB, Statler, M & Hagen, R 2013, Encyclopedia of Crisis Management, SAGE Publications, Inc., viewed 29 December, 2014, DOI, (SAGE knowledge).
Salama, P, Moloney, G, Bilukha, OO, Talley, L, Maxwell, D, Hailey, P, Hillbruner, C, Masese-Mwirigi, L, Odundo, E & Golden, MH 2012, ‘Famine in Somalia: Evidence for a declaration’, Global Food Security, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 13-19.
Seal, A & Bailey, R 2013, ‘The 2011 Famine in Somalia: lessons learnt from a failed response?’, Conflict and Health, vol. 7, no. 22, pp. 1-5.
Slim, H 2012, IASC Real-Time Evaluation of the Humanitarian Response to the Horn of Africa Drought Crisis in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, Synthesis Report, Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).


After reading the feedback on my plan from my peers and my professor, I wanted to include a little bit more information here.

My thesis sentence was absent in the first draft so I have put two potential ones together:

"Political, social and economic factors severely influenced the international response to the growing food crisis in Somalia, which as a result, failed to avert famine and thus contributed to the development of the disaster."


"Political, social and economic factors significantly delayed any real action on from the international community in response to the growing food crisis in Somalia, which ultimately allowed the famine to take place."

I have not decided which one that I prefer just yet.  The point that I am trying to get across is that because of political, social and economic factors and despite ample warning, the international community failed to stop the famine in Somalia from occurring.  Ultimately, the international community is partly responsible for the situation deteriorating to the point of disaster.

A colleague of mine also mentioned that I should include more information about what the international response actually was and I thought this was a good idea.  In truth, there was no real response other than warnings of an impending disaster until famine was actually declared.  The only thing that I could find was that the WPF increased the number of soup kitchens they had in Mogadishu from 16 to 23 and nutritional screeners were introduced to each of them in the lead up to the famine.  Unfortunately, it was not until the state of famine was declared that the international community really jumped into gear.  So here are some of the stats that I could find about the response:

•  After the declaration, $1.3 billion dollars was raised for Somalia. $800 million passed through the UN’s Consolidated Appeal (CAP system) and $50 million of which came from Saudi Arabia alone.  Turkey also contributed $365 million to the efforts of Somalia utilising a new model founded on the principle of solidarity between Muslim countries.
•  The money raised for Ethiopia and Kenya also had to be used to support the Somali refugees who fled to those countries.
•  Feeding sites (wet and dry) were established at the main points along the migration routes near the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders.  Wet feeding sites provided porridge made with fortified blended flour and oil 2-3 times per day as well as hygiene promotion, de-worming, diarrhoea treatment, vitamin A supplementation and acute malnutrition screening.  At dry sites, families were given High Energy Biscuit (HEB) and children under the age of five were provided with Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF) (i.e. plumpy sup)
According to McCloskey Rebelo et al. (2012), the programs were targeted at 4 different groups: people who were fleeing, people in Mogadishu, people in rural areas affected by drought and other vulnerable groups.
•  The WFP stated that it had provided 1.5 million people with food assistance in the year following the declaration
•  In July 2012, the WFP also stated that 15,000 people in central areas were now receiving food vouchers to buy food in the market.  This is interesting because the WFP was initially reluctant to use food vouchers prior to the declaration of famine, but once it was declared the WFP could no longer deny the use of that option.

Obviously this is a great deal of information about the response and it is unlikely that I will be able to use all of it, but I do believe that it will be beneficial to use some and as a result I'm pretty grateful for the feedback that I received.


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