For the fourth consecutive season, the East African region faces “the very real prospect” of little rain. This historic drought would place Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in a situation of extreme difficulty, unprecedented for several decades.
According to the FAO, rainfall from mid-March to mid-April this year was well below average and forecasts for the rest of the season do not seem favorable. However, if this climatic situation persists and humanitarian aid stagnates or even decreases, the number of people suffering from drought starvation could increase from 14 million currently estimated to 20 million by 2022, according to the United Nations.
A real risk of famine in Somalia in the coming months
If this climatic situation persists and humanitarian aid stagnates or even decreases, the number of people suffering from drought starvation could increase from 14 million currently estimated to 20 million by 2022.
The Regional Task Force for Food Security and Nutrition estimates that between 15 and 16 million people in the region are highly food insecure until May 2022, due to drought alone. This means that farming families have experienced three seasons of below average harvests and below average food stocks.
Already some 6 million Somalis (40% of the population) face acute food insecurity (CPI3 or higher). For the PAMthe most alarming figure is “the real risk of famine in the coming months if the rains do not arrive and if humanitarian aid is not received”.
In Kenya, half a million Kenyans are on the verge of experiencing “catastrophic levels of hunger”. The number of people in need of assistance has more than quadrupled in less than two years. The rapid escalation of the drought has left more than 3 million people in severe food insecurity (IPC3 and above), including half a million Kenyans on the verge of catastrophic levels of hunger (IPC4).
In Ethiopia, more than 7 million people wake up hungry every day in the south and south-east of the country, which is struggling with the worst drought since 1981. According to WFP, malnutrition rates in this country exceed well below the emergency thresholds.
A situation aggravated by the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine
Faced with such alarming figures, time is running out for families struggling to survive.
“WFP and other humanitarian agencies have warned the international community in the past year that this drought could be disastrous if we do not act immediately, but the funding has not materialized to the required scale,” said WFP Regional Director for Africa. eastern, Michael Dunford.
Especially since the situation on the ground has been aggravated by the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine. Prices of food and fuel are reaching “unprecedented heights”.
“Countries affected by drought in the Horn of Africa are likely to be most affected by the fallout from the conflict,” Dunford added.
Over 65% increase in the cost of the food basket in Ethiopia
The cost of the food basket has already increased, especially in Ethiopia (66%) and Somalia (36%), which are heavily dependent on wheat from the countries of the Black Sea basin. Furthermore, a possible interruption of imports further threatens food security in this area. region.
According to WFP, shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January 2022.
In the worst case, when the rains are completely non-existent and there is no humanitarian assistance, some families could face disaster (IPC Phase 5).
“This is especially true in parts of Somalia, as indicated by the IPC and famine risk analysis last week,” said Dr. Chimimba David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for East Africa.
Faced with this emergency, UN humanitarian agencies are stepping up their operations on the ground. For example, WFP aims to support 3.5 million people with emergency food and nutrition aid in Ethiopia. Also in Somalia, the United Nations Agency is stepping up emergency food and nutrition aid to help 3 million people by the middle of the year.
More globally, WFP has launched its largest early action intervention to date in Africa. The aim is to provide vulnerable Somali families in drought hotspots with additional money transfers.
WFP urges the world not to turn its back on the Horn of Africa
It should be noted that during the 2016-2017 drought in the Horn of Africa, disaster was averted thanks to timely intervention. Humanitarian aid was stepped up before hunger spread, saving lives and averting devastating famines.
In 2022, due to a shortage of funds, humanitarian agencies fear that the impending catastrophe cannot be avoided and that millions of people will suffer.
“We know from experience that swift action is critical to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date,” Dunford added.
WFP launched its last call for funds in February, but less than 4% of the necessary funds were raised. Over the next six months, WFP needs $ 473 million to increase assistance and save lives in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
“This year the humanitarian needs and hunger in the world are unprecedented and I implore the world not to turn its back on the Horn of Africa or wait until it is too late. With the possibility of a fourth consecutive failed rainy season looming, millions of lives are at stake, ”said WFP Regional Director for East Africa.