Online Geography Resources


Somalian Famine and Horn of Africa Crisis, 2011

IB DP Geography
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The aim of this lesson:

  • To examine [consider an argument or concept in a way that uncovers the assumptions and interrelationships of the issue] the variety of causes responsible for the Somalian Famine and Horn of Africa Crisis 2011.
Geography Starter


Watch this video, which was released by the World Food Programme in late July 2011. It shows people arriving at a refugee camp after traveling between the east African nations of Somalia and Kenya:
Temporary hunger

A short term need for food, triggered by physiological responses caused by food deprivation.

Starvation / Chronic Hunger
A state of extreme hunger which results from a shortage of appropriate food for a prolonged period of time.

Famine is defined technically as: “a situation where acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30%, more than 2 people per 10 000 die per day, and people are not able to access food and other basic necessities...”

Geography Activities
Geography Activities


Start to add information onto the mind map blank that you will be provided with by your teacher. You need to make connections relating to the famine and the reasons why it occurred.
Geography Resource
Mind map
  This task could also be done using a digital mind mapping tool such as MindMeister.

The reasons for famine are multi-faceted and are not as straight-forward as they might first appear.

There are several definitions of famine that have been used, but all of them equate to the same thing: “an extreme shortage of accessible food, which leads to increased mortality”. Famine does not have to mean that food is unavailable, but that there is unequal access to it, or difficulty in accessing it.

Geography Activities


Geography Activities


During the summer months of 2011, news media began to report the worsening situation in the countries that make up the Horn of Africa.

Drought had been a problem in the region for some time, and this was made worse by the conflicts and unrest that affected the country. Many thousands of people began to make their way from Somalia across the border into Kenya. This attracted the attention of several organisations. You will be making use of a series of resources from these organisations as you complete this work. Remember that you should be aware of the background to these organisations, and also make use of the SPEED method that was introduced in the previous unit.

Image: SPEED Factors, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from geographyalltheway_photos's photostream
Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Activity 1 - Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit Report 2013

  Study Suggests 258,000 Somalis died due to severe food insecurity and famine [PDF document - 2 May 2013]
Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Activity 2 - What were the Environmental and Economic factors that led to the famine?

Drought was a major factor in the famine being declared. The lack of rainfall affected the land on which people grew the crops which they relied upon for food, but also to barter and sell the surplus. Topsoil dried out, and was prone to wind erosion. There was little vegetation to anchor the topsoil (which contains the most fertile materials) and this was removed. Since soil takes many thousands of years to form, this is an example of a short term problem which will create problems for generations to come. There are methods that can be used to reduce the risk of erosion, but the knowledge, skills and time may not be available to put them into place.

More important was the impact of reduced water availability on the ability of the local population to grow adequate food. This was partly the result of a changing rainfall pattern, with the normal pattern of two rainy seasons failing to materialise.

Look at this interactive resource which allows you to explore the region.

  Voice of America - Famine Strikes the Horn of Africa [7 September 2011]
Use the map to add to your mind-map on the famine and its causes as you work through the task.
Famine Strikes the Horn of Africa

You will see that the resource is made up of 4 sections. The first section has information on the pattern of rainfall and you can explore locations across the country by clicking on them. This will reveal what the rainfall had to do with the story. Follow the arrows across the page, and discover the other key elements.

Follow the guidance on the site to explore and provide named locations to begin to tell the story of the famine, and how it developed.

At the end, click on the NEWS tab, and find out what the latest situation is...

Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Activity 3 - Somalia famine refugees tell their stories

World Food Programme Tweet

During July 2009, the World Food Programme twitter feed (@WFP) was busy with the worsening situation in the area between Somalia and Kenya. Aid workers were also tweeting about their work, and telling the stories of some of the people they were encountering. Thousands of desperate Somalians were walking for days to reach the refugee camp at Dadaab which began to grow at an incredible rate. Conditions for those who arrived became increasingly fraught. When they arrived, there was an assessment of their condition to establish who needed the most immediate help. This initial assessment, known as triage, also makes a further link between food and health, as it is the sort of procedure that is carried out by medical staff. At this stage, some heart breaking decisions may also have to be made.

Sadly, for many people who arrived it was too late. Many died on the way.

This Guardian interactive has some stories of the people who were able to make the journey. Click on at least three of the faces, and listen to their stories.

The Guardian
  Somalia famine refugees tell their stories – interactive [11 August 2011]

Add their testimonies to the mind map.

In late July 2011, the United Nations officially declared a famine in the area. Food agencies went into the area in greater numbers, including Oxfam, and the appeals began.

Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Activity 4 - United Nations officially declared a famine

In late July 2011, the United Nations officially declared a famine in the area. Food agencies went into the area in greater numbers, including Oxfam, and the appeals began.
BBC - Areas of food shortage
Areas of Food Shortage - Reported on the BBC News on 13 October 2011

What are the differences between a famine and a food emergency?

Adapted from an article by Mike Pflanz in the Daily Telegraph:

What is the difference between a 'food emergency' and a 'famine'?

Most aid agencies including the UN use the five-stage Integrated Phase Classification system of food emergencies.

Phase 4, a 'Humanitarian Emergency', is when up to two people per 10,000 are dying each day, when acute malnutrition rates are between 15 per cent and 30 per cent, almost all livestock have been lost and there is less than 7.5 litres of water available each day per person.

Phase 5, 'Famine/Humanitarian Catastrophe', means more than two people per 10,000 die each day, acute malnutrition rates are above 30 per cent, all livestock is dead, and there is less than 2,100 kcal of food and 4 litres of water available per person per day.

Other factors in a famine include large-scale and concentrated movement of people from their homes looking for help, and widespread armed conflict.

Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Activity 5 - Political Situation

The Kenyan government were cautious of allowing unchecked movement across the border, despite the humanitarian disaster, because of the problem of insecurity in Somalia. Think back to the map that was in a previous unit which made the connection between food security and actual security.

The refugee camp of Dadaab became the focus for a lot of the media attention. Ben Brown’s article paints a vivid picture of life in the camp.

The Telegraph
  Horn of Africa drought: A vision of hell at the Dadaab refugee camp [9 July 2011]
Geography Activities
Geography Activities

Activity 6 - Extension

Geography Resource

Download the Focus on Dadaab document, produced by Medecins sans Frontier.

You are going to produce an orientation guide for new arrivals in Dadaab: a sort of ROUGH GUIDE TO Dadaab. This needs to give a sense for how the famine has developed and the reasons why people have arrived here.

Geography Resource
Geography Review



You now need to draw together the various resources that you have completed during this unit to return to the big picture.

Make sure you are clear on the causes of the famine, and the definition of famine.

Be clear about the triggers that caused so many people to leave their homes, and put themselves in the hands of aid agencies.


Create your own mind maps at MindMeister

Exam style question:

"There is no such thing as an apolitical food problem.." Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Winning Economist. Discuss this statement with reference to the Somalian Famine of 2011. [10 Marks]
The markbands can be found here - you need to look at Paper 2.
Essay Graphic Organiser
Alan Parkinson   These Geography of Food and Health resources were written by Alan Parkinson and edited by Richard Allaway. Alan is a an independent geography consultant, author and trainer, fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Chartered Geographer and founder member of the Geography Collective. on facebook
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