Monday, August 1, 2011

USGS science supports famine declaration in East Africa

From the US Geological Survey, some detail about the mechanisms by which famine is declared: U.S. Geological Survey scientists, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other federal agencies, have developed an outlook for environmental conditions in east Africa that enabled agencies of the United Nations to declare (July 20) parts of Somalia as a region in famine.

“Famine” in this context is a strictly defined term used to authenticate the severity of the situation and mobilize international assistance. Famine is expected to spread across all regions of southern Somalia in the coming 1-2 months.

Sponsored by the USAID Office of Food for Peace, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) identifies critical instances where food aid is required by the most food insecure populations of the developing world, populations whose livelihoods are typically tied to subsistence rainfed agriculture and pastoralism (tending livestock).

..."None of the many uses of Earth observing satellites is more vital — or has as much potential for prompting timely humanitarian intervention — as famine early warning," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "Remote sensing from space allows USGS scientists to provide rapid, accurate assessments of a broad range of environmental and agricultural conditions."

The eastern Horn of Africa, the continental region that encompasses Somalia, has experienced two consecutive seasons of very poor rainfall resulting in the worst drought in 60 years. Crops have failed, livestock deaths are widespread, and food prices are very high...

Somalia viewed by NASA

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