Drought in the Horn of Africa: More than 18.5 million in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti face humanitarian crisis

As pastureland and water points dry up, 20 million may be acutely food insecure by year-end  

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Wednesday 06 July 2022

Four consecutive failed rainy seasons have left more than 18.5 million people in acute food insecurity across the Horn of Africa region in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.

The number can increase due to below-average rainfall in March-May, 2022, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

The World Food Programme warned that the number might go up to 20 million by the end of the year.

Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa, said:

“WFP and other humanitarian agencies have been warning the international community since last year that this drought could be disastrous if we didn’t act immediately, but funding has failed to materialise at the scale required.”

In the Horn of Africa, nearly 70 per cent of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region comprises arid and semi-arid lands prone to recurrent droughts.

The government of Djibouti issued a drought alert in February 2021. As of May 20, 2022, more than 134,000 people in the country are food insecure, mainly in rural areas.

In Ethiopia, up to 8.1 million people are acutely food insecure. At least 286,000 people in the Somali and Oromia regions have migrated in search of water, pasture or assistance.

It is estimated that 4.2 million people, or close to a quarter of the population, in the arid and semi-arid lands of north and east Kenya are acutely food insecure as of May 16, 2022.

According to UNOCHA, 90 per cent of Somalia’s districts are affected by the drought. Over 6 million people, or 38 per cent of the total population, are facing a crisis. Around 81,000 are facing catastrophic levels of hunger and 1.4 million children are acutely malnourished.

Across the Horn of Africa, pastureland and water points are drying up. Pastoralists and rural communities whose subsistence depends on natural resources are witnessing the death of their livestock and the loss of their livelihoods.

The government in Somalia declared a state of emergency in November 2021. Some parts of the country face the worst water scarcity in 40 years

Nearly 800,000 people have been displaced in Somalia due to drought since early 2021. At least half a million of them were displaced in the first four months of this year. Women and children make up 80 per cent of the newly displaced population.

The number of children in eastern Africa facing the impact of drought has increased to at least 10 million from 7.25 million in February-April 2022, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Parts of the Horn of Africa region experienced severe drought, the worst in 40 years. The crisis was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, desert locusts and now a further surge in food and commodity prices due to the conflict in Ukraine.

According to UNOCHA, child marriage has reportedly risen to acquire money for food and other necessities in some communities.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), additional funding is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods and mitigate further displacement.

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