BY DAYO ADESULU
The Horn of Africa is experiencing the driest conditions recorded since 1981, with severe drought leaving an estimated 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia facing severe hunger in the first quarter of this year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.
Three consecutive failed rainy seasons have decimated crops and caused abnormally high livestock deaths. Shortages of water and pasture are forcing families from their homes and leading to increased conflict between communities. Further forecasts of below-average rainfall are threatening to worsen and compound dire conditions in the coming months.
The situation requires immediate humanitarian action and consistent support to build the resilience of communities for the future
“Harvests are ruined, livestock are dying, and hunger is growing as recurrent droughts affect the Horn of Africa,” said Michael Dunford, Regional Director in the WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa. “The situation requires immediate humanitarian action and consistent support to build the resilience of communities for the future.”
The drought has impacted pastoral and farmer populations across southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, south-eastern and northern Kenya and south-central Somalia. The impacts are compounded by increases in staple food prices, inflation, and low demand for agricultural labour, further worsening families’ ability to buy food. Malnutrition rates also remain high across the region and could worsen if no immediate action is taken.
Across the three drought-affected countries, WFP is providing life-saving food and nutrition assistance to affected communities. Additionally, WFP cash grants and insurance schemes are helping families buy food to keep their livestock alive or compensating them for their losses.
As needs across the Horn of Africa grow, immediate assistance is critical to avoid a major humanitarian crisis, like the one the world witnessed in 2011 when 250,000 people died of hunger in Somalia. This week WFP launches its Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa, calling for US$ 327 million to respond to the immediate needs of 4.5 million people over the next six months and help communities become more resilient to extreme climate shocks.