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Mary Robinson in Africa
This week, I am travelling with former Irish president Mary Robinson to the drought-stricken region of east Africa. We hope this trip will help shine a spotlight on the current crisis.
Also accompanying Mary on the trip are Justin Kilcullen, director of Trocaire and Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland. Together, we’ve asked her to help ensure the plight of people in the area remains firmly on the global agenda.
The visit means that she is returning to the region almost two decades on from her 1992 visit to Somalia, when she called on the world to not allow that country to die.
The drought is now affecting an estimated 10 million people. In some areas, over 37% of people are suffering from acute malnutrition. This is more than double the benchmark threshold used to constitute an emergency.
Compounding the problem is the fact that prices of essential food items have skyrocketed, in some cases by more than 200%.
Mary Robinson is president of a foundation focusing on climate justice, and the trip will also highlight the role of climate change in the current crisis.
Millions of people in east Africa are extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of climate that can quickly threaten their lives. Future climate change is likely to see temperatures rising in the region. This would continue to have a severe impact on people's lives.
Voice for the voiceless
Mary has always acted as a voice for the voiceless. During the visit, she will spend time with diverse communities affected by the drought. This will include pastoralists in northern Kenya and refugees living in camps. She said:
I welcome the invitation from the agencies to visit the Horn of Africa to see the impact that the drought has had on the poorest people. The people most affected are those who are not responsible for it. I hope my visit can highlight this injustice, increase awareness of the impacts of climate change and encourage the international community to respond.