African Overview: Horn of Africa, Malawi, Niger

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Source: Notas / The Dawn / April 9, 2017

Drought in the Horn of Africa leads to internal displacement and hunger

Countries of the region known as the Horn of Africa (namely Djibouti, Eirtrea, Ethiopia and Somalia) are facing a serious drought that is putting 15 million people at risk of famine.

Horn of Africa

In Somalia, every day three thousand people leave their homes to escape this dry climate, which is the worst of the last 20 years.

This was reported by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and their director in Somalia, Victor Moses, affirmed that the situation is a “clear sign that a catastrophe is coming closer” and that this is “the last chance” to prevent famine. The last time there was a famine in the country, six years ago, 260 thousand people died.

Those who are leaving their homes behind are going to neighboring countries, especially to the cities, which aren’t prepared to receive this rural exodus. According to data provided by the UN and the NRC, more than six million Somalis are in need of urgent help, including a million children suffering from acute malnutrition.

To this adds the epidemic of cholera, which is already affecting two thirds of the country, with 18,400 cases (according to official numbers) and more than 300 deadly victims.

Furthermore, there are 100 thousand Somalis living in Ethiopia, displaced by the crisis snd the internal civil war. However, Ethiopia is also affected by the same drought, and currently 5.6 million of its inhabitants are in danger of famine.

In Kenya, the situation has led to protests where dozens of peasants have been killed while demanding lands and water for their cattle.

Farmer in Eritrea / Photo credit: Icarda
Farmer in Eritrea / Photo credit: Icarda

Malawi is discussing a reform in the presidential election system to strengthen democracy

A Special Commission on Malawi Law has been commissioned by the government with the task of reforming the electoral law of the country. After a year of research, the organism held a conference to debate the proposals for change.


The main initiative, which has already generated several debates, is reforming the current system to elect presidents.

Since Malawi implemented a multi-party system in the mid-90s, the President is elected by a simple majority. That’s what allowed the current president, Peter Mutharika, to win with only 35% of the vote.

The Special Commission proposes to implement a new method by which a candidate would have to obtain an absolute majority (over 50% of the vote) in order to win.

This would mean an important transformation in Malawi politics. The southern region of the country is more densely-populated, more developed (thanks to the favors of the latest governments) and, unsurprisingly, the home of all of the presidents of the “democratic era”.

If an absolute majority system was implemented, no region would be able to single-handedly tip the scale in favor of one candidate in particular, meaning that candidates would have to form alliances and seek to earn votes in other areas of the country.

To Jimmy Kainja, professor of the Malawi University, this would enable to “reduce the toxic politics of regionalism”. However, this isn’t what the party in government thinks. Heatherwick Ntaba, special advisor to President Mutharicka, declared that the new system proposed is “unreal and useless”.

Kainja doesn’t deny this might have a negative side since it would introduce the dynamics of alliance politics, which are unpredictable and might lead to internal struggle within the government alliance”. At the same time, this “leaves an open space for alliances to be made purely to win, and not in the best interest of the country”.

Nevertheless, “the bigger picture” is that this new system of election would “reduce the feelings of injustice” and allow to “adopt a more federal government system”.


Meningitis epidemic is spreading throughout Nigeria

Since November 2016, 369 people have died in Nigeria due to the meningitis epidemic that’s affecting the country. The states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger and Sokoto (the latter with a poverty rate of over 80%) are the most affected.


Authorities have informed that the new outbreak is caused by the C-strain of meningitis. Before that, the country was affected by the A-strain. The country lacks adequate vaccines to immunize the population.

The head of the Nigerian Center of Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said there was a “limited stock” of C-strin vaccines around the world.

The World Health Organization delivered 500 doses for an inoculation program that will begin in Zamfara on April 11. However, it’s estimated that three million vaccines will be needed for that state alone.

Epidemic meningitis is a serious infection that affects children and youth. Its symptoms are catarrh, headache, vomiting, convulsions, neck stiffening, constipation, delirium and coma. Fever begins abruptly and intensely. Its spontaneous evolution is almost always quick and fatal.

In 2015, 1,100 people died and in 1996, 12 thousand died and 100 thousand were infected.

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