Three consecutive dry seasons in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have wrecked crops and resulted in unusually high livestock fatalities, while water and pasture shortages are pushing families to flee their homes and causing community unrest.
“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.
Meanwhile, expectations of below-average precipitation threaten to exacerbate the already terrible situation. Drought has impacted pastoral and farmer populations in southern and southeastern Ethiopia, southeastern and northern Kenya, and south-central Somalia. It is compounding increases in staple food prices and inflation, as well as low demand for agricultural labor, exacerbating families’ inability to buy food.
WFP is delivering vital food and nutrition support to vulnerable populations throughout the three drought-stricken countries. In addition, monetary grants and insurance programmes assist people in purchasing animal feed.
Urgent assistance needed
WFP is creating a Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa to avoid a huge humanitarian crisis like the one in Somalia in 2011, when 250 000 people died of famine.
It seeks $327 million over the next six months to satisfy the urgent needs of 4.5 million people and to assist communities to become more resilient to catastrophic climate shocks.
In Ethiopia, an estimated 5.7 million people are in need of food aid due to a severe drought.
Elamu, a mother of seven, told the WFP that the drought had put her animals “in jeopardy”.
“Our livelihood depends on them, so we are doing everything we can to keep them healthy,”she explained. “Every morning we lead our cattle to graze at a pasture far away, but even that area is drying up.”
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is assisting her with cash transfers and vital information about the impending drought. Elamu is one of nearly 3 000 pastoralist households getting cash transfers, as well as one of 16 000 pastoralist households receiving early warning messages from the WFP to assist manage the drought in Ethiopia’s Somali region.
Malnutrition treatment for mothers and children
WFP is also increasing food aid in the Somali region, delivering nutrition treatment to 585 000 malnourished children and mothers, as well as preventive malnutrition treatment to 80 000 homes with mothers or small children.
It’s also keeping its livelihoods, resilience and food systems programs going in the long run to secure recent development gains and to empower vulnerable Somalis against droughts and other disasters.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s government declared the drought a national emergency in September 2021, as an estimated 2.8 million people sought help.
More than 890 000 people in the worst-affected counties have received emergency food aid, and malnutrition treatment and prevention programmes for women and children have been expanded. The World Food Programme will also provide micro-insurance help to smallholder farmers in the country.