Over the past year, drought has plagued much of the Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda. It has been the driest year on record since 1950! The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) and Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) were able to signal this emerging weather-related crisis as early as August 2010. These initiatives have helped donors track the crisis and its impact on communities in the region. Though the crisis has not been averted, these data allowed donors to scale up and pre-position quantities of food to help meed the needs of the populations.
Drought devastates crops and livestock, which in turn reduce the amount of food people have to eat and their opportunities for earning an income. For pastoralist communities throughout the Horn, raising livestock is their way of life. Even when good seasonal rains come, the people’s resources are so depleted that they begin a new season deep in the hole.
According to Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of the end of June, at least 10 million people in the region are food insecure. Approximately 120,000 people in Djibouti, 3.2 million in Ethiopia, 3.5 million in Kenya, 600,000 in Uganda and 2.5 million in Somalia are affected by the drought. Here’s a great interactive map to explain the numbers of people affected.
Not only has the drought hit the region hard, but many communities –- urban, rural, pastoralist and even those in refugee camps –- face rising food prices in part because of global pressures on commodities markets. The price of grain in affected areas in Kenya is 30 to 80 percent more than the five-year average. In Ethiopia, the consumer price index for food increased by almost 41 percent from May 2010 to May 2011.
Poor people in developing countries are especially affected by high food prices because they spend on average between 60 and 80 percent of their incomes on food. Faced with higher food bills, poor people eat cheaper, less nutritious food. This crisis is no exception. The region faces very high levels of acute malnutrition: between 23 and 27 percent in some areas of Kenya, 24 percent in parts of Ethiopia and levels possibly as high as 30 percent in Somalia.
In addition, the drought is causing kids to drop out of school, exacerbating disease prevalence in both humans and livestock, and pushing people in extreme circumstances to migrate in search of work, food and in conflict-afflicted areas, protection. Every month in 2011, an average of 15,000 Somalis flee their homes and arrive in Kenya and Ethiopia, seeking protection and assistance. Dadaab, in northeastern Kenya, is the world’s largest refugee camp, housing more than four times its capacity — and still 60,000 Somalis camp outside. Kakuma, a second refugee camp, is home to 70,000 Somali refugees.
Humanitarian aid agencies, governments and UN organizations are rushing to respond to the crisis. The consolidated appeal process (CAP) that brings governmental and non-governmental aid organizations together to jointly plan, coordinate, implement and monitor their responses estimates that nearly $33 million is needed for Djibouti, $324 million for Kenya, about $355 million for Somalia and nearly $400 million for Ethiopia.
While funding these humanitarian appeals are life-saving and essential, and should be met immediately, it is also critical to ensure that long-term interventions that both help prevent and lessen the impact of crises when they occur are not forgotten. This week, ONE released a report called “Agriculture Accountability” that measures how donors are doing against their promises to invest in agricultural development and food security.
Smart investments in agriculture, including crop insurance for small-scale farmers, are proven to lift people out of poverty, reduce food prices, grow economies and build resilience to withstand shocks from high food prices or adverse weather. But donors are not approaching agriculture and food security with the urgency they deserve. They need to step up their investments so that future droughts and weather shocks are less likely to tip into large-scale humanitarian crises.
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the humanitarian challenges that the region is facing, OCHA also provides specific information on the situations in Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia.
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