Across the Horn of Africa, people are feeling the impact of severe drought. Farmers are struggling to achieve crop targets, livestock are dying, and food prices have increased. The human toll is expected to grow as people struggle to survive with less food and water.
This is not just a dry spell. So far, during this year’s heavy rain season – typically falling between March and June – rainfall has reached less than half of the average rate.
In Somalia, where the rains at this time of year are known as the Gu, the situation is especially alarming. According to the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the 2019 Gu rains are the third driest on record. Somali communities are still recovering from prolonged drought in 2016-2017, and many are unable to cope.
“Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases,” warned Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
The failure of crops and livestock are fueling hunger and displacement throughout the region, hitting farmers and herders in the rural communities of Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia particularly hard. Last week, Lowcock announced that the UN’s Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) would be releasing $45 million to help affected communities and to prevent famine from occurring.
Action Against Hunger and the humanitarian community are urging donors to step up their aid in the region even further before the crisis deteriorates further. In Somalia alone, the Drought Response Plan calls for more than $700 million to help those impacted by the drought and address and mitigate its effects.
Estimates warn that 2.2 million people in Somalia could face crisis or emergency levels of acute food insecurity by July – one step away from famine. Overall, more than 23.3 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan.
In some areas, rains are beginning to fall, but it may be too late to avert a hunger crisis.
“Even if the drought improves, the nutrition situation will still be concerning,” says Hajir Maalim, Regional Director for Action Against Hunger’s programs in the Horn and East Africa. “Crops have failed and not been replanted, so the next harvest season will be poor. Without relief, families will face a serious scarcity of food and nutrition.”
Over the last few months, the region has already seen a growing number of malnutrition cases. These increases are alarming, and likely do not reflect the full scale of the potential nutrition crisis.
“Right now, we suspect there are many cases going undetected and untreated,” Maalim adds. “Families in rural areas live far from health services – it’s often a 10-12 mile walk to the nearest health centers, which costs significant time and money. That’s why we must continue to work closely with community health workers and caregivers to promote early detection and treatment of malnutrition.”
Across the Horn and East Africa, Action Against Hunger is preparing to scale up its programs in response to increasing needs. Our cost-effective programs have been proven to help save lives and to mitigate the consequences of drought and hunger, even in emergency situations.
Powered by more than 1,300 experienced staff members in the region, we are working with communities to expand the reach of our nutrition programs, improve access to clean water and safe sanitation, and strengthen local capacity to understand and address the drivers of hunger and food insecurity.