Horn of Africa has entered 6th consecutive wet season with no rain: UNHCR

In Somalia, 3.8 million people have been displaced as of February 28, 2023; close to 300,000 people could be newly displaced by July 2023 

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 02 March 2023

Photo: @RefugeesAfrica / TwitterPhoto: @RefugeesAfrica / Twitter

The Horn of Africa has now entered its sixth consecutive rainy season with no rain, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement  Feb 28, 2023.

The last five rainy seasons have been deficit and the rains from March-May were likely to be average, according to the joint statement released by multilateral agencies and another report by REACH, a humanitarian initiative.

Three countries in the Horn of Africa — KenyaEthiopia and Somalia — have been experiencing an ongoing drought since late 2020. A humanitarian crisis has been brewing since then and is now even more worrying for Somalia. The number of displacements in the country has peaked to a new high of 3.8 million people.

Since January 2023, at least 288,000 people have become internally displaced in the country due to conflict and drought according to UNHCR estimates (as of February 28, 2023). This is very close to total 305,000 new displacements during the entire year of 2016, according to the UNHCR data portal.  

Failure of rains and conflict in Somalia could further force people to migrate to major cities and towns, especially Baidoa and Mogadishu. Close to 300,000 people could be newly displaced by July 2023, according to the  projected the International Organization for Migrants (IOM).

Somalia migrants seek refuge in drought-affected areas of Kenya and Ethiopia too, stated UNHCR.

“Most of the newly displaced might never go back to their places of origin because the land can no longer provide, and insecurity will only increase as competition for the already scarce resources grow. As a result, entire families will be born and raised in informal settlements amid unsuitable living conditions,” said Ugochi Daniels, IOM deputy director general. 

Daniels called upon donors to invest in solutions to prevent further displacement and address the dire living situation of the millions affected by the ongoing drought and conflict.

There is a need to invest in the places of origin to foster resilience and to prevent further displacement from happening. So, the IOM projects are aimed towards improving their access to land and long-term housing, social services through an inclusive planning process with local authorities and communities.

This lays the foundation for long-term development planning, the statement noted.

$137 million needed

“An amount of $137 million is needed to help displaced people in the Horn of Africa. As of February 28, 2023, over eight million people require food assistance and around 332,000 urgently need food, otherwise their lives are at risk,” stated Olga Sarrado, the UNHCR spokesperson.

The UNHCR plans to provide basic relief including emergency shelter and household items to new refugees and displaced people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The funds will be utilised for refurbishing the existing water and sanitation systems. This is important as outbreaks of cholera, a water-borne disease, are on the rise in these countries.

Cholera was first reported in Kenya in October 2022. It has been compounded and exacerbated by the ongoing drought and food insecurity, the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa said in its most recent weekly health emergencies bulletin.

The cholera outbreak has affected 15 counties, with active transmission in seven. Of the affected counties, three share long porous borders with Somalia, one with Tanzania, and one with Ethiopia.

The drought situation in Kenya has resulted in acute water shortage and rationing, leading to poor sanitation and cholera outbreaks in major towns and counties like Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado.

The health authorities in Kenya continue to report elevated cholera activity and a cumulative total of 4,821 cholera cases have been confirmed between October and February 2023 according to the most recent WHO weekly bulletin dated February 6 to 12, 2023.

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