The year 2017 started with a UN announcement that 1.4 million children face imminent death from famine in Africa. Failure of food production due to drought and conflicts, combined with weak and limited national responses and capacities to address the crisis in countries such as Somalia, South Sudan and parts of Nigeria has resulted in millions of children suffering from malnutrition and facing famine. Countries in the horn of Africa are particularly vulnerable to drought and famine.
Such negative developments in the region disturb us all and remind us of the need to scale up our collective effort to reverse them. Studies are showing us the strong link between accountable-governance and occurrence of droughts which have heavy tolls on women and children. Droughts are not new to our region. The current droughts and the cost in the lives of children and women should be a turning point where we commit and resolve to move from fire-fighting to addressing their root causes. African governments, particularly in drought prone countries, need to tackle these situations that deeply affect the life and dignity of our people.
Our policies and actions need to promote zero-tolerance to avoidable famine, hunger and deprivations and government machineries should be tuned to realise them. National development initiatives must be responsive to the persistent poverty and increasing inequality. Investing in food production and putting in place mechanisms for fair distribution should be given utmost priority to ensure food sufficiency and access in the continent. Investments must also be made in physical infrastructure and service facilities to provide access to the most vulnerable groups of the population living in remote areas.
Child-sensitive social protection programmes have proven to be effective strategies to tackle vulnerabilities of children and their families and enhance their resilience to crisis and droughts. The Call for Action of our Sixth International Policy Conference on the African Child (IPC), under the theme “Social Protection in Africa: Making it Work for Children”, urged African governments, together with partners, to commit to designing and implementing appropriate national social protection programmes that put children and families at the center of the process and help reduce shocks and vulnerabilities in time of crisis and droughts.
As African civil society organisations, we must continue to engage and support governments in building the knowledge base, identifying good practices and in developing appropriate strategies to combat vulnerabilities and insecurities. We must identify policy gaps that hinder efforts aimed at addressing the root causes of vulnerability, particularly among those who suffer most.
The suffering of children must stop in Africa. Policy gaps must be addressed, implementation and enforcement of existing policies and programmes must improve. Most importantly, we should strengthen our advocacy to promote accountable-governance that advances this agenda.