United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Counselor Thomas H. Staal. PHOTO/COURTESY
By OUR REPORTER
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Counselor Thomas H. Staal is on a visit in East Africa to discuss humanitarian and violent extremism activities.
During his visit Mr Staal will be travelling to Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan between April 1 and 14, 2017.
While in Kenya Mr Staal will meet with partners and review humanitarian activities across the East African region.
In Kenya, Mr Staal will also meet with government officials to discuss U.S. efforts to counter violent extremism.
In Ethiopia, Counselor Staal will accompany students from the National War College, in meetings with government officials, and humanitarian actors to discuss the ongoing drought and USAID’s response efforts.
He will also promote “Power Africa,” an initiative to improve access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.
In South Sudan, Counselor Staal will meet with partners and government officials to discuss the famine affecting parts of the country, as well as USAID’s ongoing humanitarian response.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, said in South Sudan, where a famine was recently declared, more than 7.5 million people are in need of assistance, including some 3.4 million displaced. The figure rose by 1.4 million since last year.
“The famine in the country is man-made. Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine – as are those not intervening to make the violence stop,” stressed Mr. O’Brien, calling on the South Sudanese authorities to translate their assurances of unconditional access into “action on the ground.”
Similarly, more than half the population of Somalia (6.2 million people) is in need of aid, 2.9 million of whom require immediate assistance. Extremely worrying is that more than one million children under the age of five are at the risk of acute malnourishment.
“The current indicators mirror the tragic picture of 2011, when Somalia last suffered a famine,” recalled the UN official, but expressed hope that a famine can be averted with strong national leadership and immediate and concerted support by the international community.
Concerning Kenya, he mentioned that more than 2.7 million people were food insecure, and that this number could reach four million by April.
“In collaboration with the Government [of Kenya], the UN will soon launch an appeal of $200 million to provide timely life-saving assistance and protection,” he informed.
Mr Staal has spent most of his career working overseas in international development. He has worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) since 1988, beginning in Sudan as an Emergency Program Officer.
In the early 1990s he worked in the USAID regional office in Kenya, managing food aid and doing project development throughout eastern and southern Africa.