Drought has wrecked swaths of land across the Horn of Africa, from southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, putting 20 million people at risk of hunger.
Last week, a donor conference donated about $1.4 billion for the region, which is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, according to the UN.
Herding and subsistence farming are the main sources of income in the affected areas.
Since the end of 2020, they’ve had their fourth consecutive bad rainy season, exacerbated by a locust invasion that wiped out crops between 2019 and 2021.
By 2022, the number of hungry people owing to drought might rise from 14 million to 20 million,” the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said last month.
Six million Somalis, or 40% of the population, are suffering from severe food insecurity, with “a very serious risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions continue, according to the UN humanitarian response agency OCHA.
Another 6.5 million Ethiopians, as well as 3.5 million Kenyans, are very food insecure,” according to the report.
A scarcity of water and pasture has forced one million people from their homes in the region, and at least three million head of cattle have died, according to OCHA.
At a UN briefing in Geneva in April, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s envoy to the African Union, Chimimba David Phiri, warned, “We must act immediately… if we want to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
Extreme weather events, according to experts, are occurring with greater frequency and intensity as a result of climate change.
The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the dire situation in the Horn of Africa, contributing to rising food and fuel prices, disrupting global supply systems, and diverting assistance money away from the region.
According to UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, ten million children in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia require immediate life-saving assistance as a result of the crisis.
Overall, 1.7 million children in the sub-region are critically malnourished,” she said in a statement during a four-day visit to Ethiopia last week.
Russell said that a lack of clean water was increasing the danger of sickness among children and that hundreds of thousands of children had dropped out of school due to the need to travel vast distances for food and water.
In 2017, East Africa was hit by a devastating drought, but early humanitarian intervention in Somalia prevented a famine.
However, according to the UN, 260,000 people died of starvation in the turbulent country in 2011, half of whom were children under the age of six. This was largely due to the international community’s failure to intervene quickly enough.
Aside from the direct and potentially fatal repercussions for those affected, a lack of water and grazing land is a source of intercommunal strife, especially among herders.
The animal kingdom is likewise threatened by the drought. Cattle, which are an important source of livelihood in the region, are dying in large numbers.
Wildlife is also in jeopardy. Many wild species, such as giraffes and antelopes, have died in Kenya due to a lack of water and food, their carcasses decaying on barren scrubland.
In times of drought, wild animals will leave their natural environment in search of water or food, often moving closer to human settlements.
Big cats have attacked herds of livestock in central Kenya, while elephants and buffaloes have turned to graze on farms, angering the locals.