Oxfam Ambassador Scarlett Johansson visits drought stricken Horn of Africa

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 24 Sep 2011

This week, Oxfam Ambassador Actress Scarlett Johansson visited Kenya to see the devastating impact of the drought in East Africa.

More than 13 million people are at risk because of a severe drought that has hit parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. In Somalia, the crisis has escalated to a famine.

She visited the Dadaab refugee camp, where tens of thousands of Somali refugees have arrived:

“The scale of poverty in Dadaab is overwhelming,” said Johansson. “I met countless women like Hawa, a local community leader, who lamented the seemingly endless struggle of the Somali people, as refugees of war and starvation and now left to suffer everyday life with the very barest of essentials.”

She also visited the Turkana region of northern Kenya, where communities suffer from chronic droughts that have destroyed their lives and livelihoods.

“This is a long-term and escalating crisis exacerbated by political conflict, famine and drought that can no longer be ignored. Over half the Somalis that have died are children; an entire generation lost. This is no longer an issue that can only garner some attention, some of the time. Extreme action must be taken by the global community now.”

An Oxfam Ambassador since 2004, Scarlett visited the region to see Oxfam’s life-saving work. Oxfam aims to reach 3.5 million people with emergency relief, as well as helping with long-standing threats to livelihoods and building the resilience of the communities where it works.

Notes to editors:

More than 13 million people are at risk, facing desperate food shortages across the Horn of Africa as some areas are suffering the worst drought in six decades. The UN has declared a famine in several regions of Somalia and warned that this could spread if donors don’t act fast.

Tens of thousands of people have already lost their lives – more than half of them children. Women and children fleeing Somalia have been walking for up to 3-4 weeks across the desert, with very little food and water. Thousands are still fleeing each day over the border to Kenya and Ethiopia, while others have ended up in makeshift camps in and around conflict-torn Mogadishu.

This crisis is certain to get worse. Below average rainfall is predicted for the October to December rains in the greater Mandera triangle (where Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia meet) as well as for the November to January rains in south and central Somalia. Recovery may not start until the next harvest in August 2012.

Notes to pictorial editors
Photographs of Scarlett Johansson in the Horn of Africa are available here

For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0400 732 795 or cheecheel@oxfam.org.au