June 21, 2024

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In the Horn of Africa, drought threatens 13 million people

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From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya through Somalia, the Horn of Africa is facing a drought that worries humanitarian organizations, with nearly 13 million people at risk of starvation.

In these areas where the population lives mainly from livestock and agriculture, the last three rainy seasons since the end of 2020 have been marked by poor rainfall, in addition to a locust infestation that destroyed crops between 2019 and 2021.

“The Horn of Africa represents 4% of the world’s population but 20% of the population is food insecure,” noted on February 11th the Director of the World Food Program (WFP) for East Africa, Michael Dunford.

According to the United Nations, 5.7 million people need food assistance in southern and southeastern Ethiopia, including half a million malnourished children and mothers.

In eastern and northern Kenya, where the president declared a state of national disaster in September, 2.8 million people need assistance.

In Somalia, the number of people classified as severely hungry could drop from 4.3 million to 4.6 million by May, if no urgent action is taken. The authorities declared a humanitarian emergency in November.

In this country, “malnutrition has reached crisis levels,” UNICEF Somalia spokesperson Victor Chinyama recently warned, calling for “action now”: “If we wait for the situation to deteriorate or famine is declared, it may be too late.”

– On the brink of disaster –

In 2017, early humanitarian mobilization prevented famine in Somalia, in contrast to 2011 when 260,000 people – half of them children under the age of six – died from starvation or hunger-related disorders.

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Currently, only 2.3% of the UN appeal to mobilize $1.46 billion (€1.23 billion) to meet needs in Somalia in 2022 has been met.

“There is a very small window for action (…) We are really on the brink of disaster,” the Director of FAO’s Office of Emergency and Resilience, Ryan Poulsen, estimated last week.

“We have (…) until the middle of this year, until June – a very narrow window – to ramp up urgent measures and avoid a worst-case scenario,” he said.

In addition to the immediate dire consequences, water shortages and pasture scarcity are also sources of conflict, especially among pastoralists.

Livestock – a basic way of living in this region – is dying in droves. In Kenya, at least 1.4 million head of livestock have died, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).

In this country famous for its reserves and nature parks, wildlife is also under threat.

Many cases of wild animals (giraffes, antelopes, etc.) dead due to lack of water and food have been recorded.

It also happens that animals leave their usual habitat in search of water or food.

In the center of the country, felines attacked herds, elephants or buffaloes that came to graze on farms, angering the population.