Drought Continues to Plague the Horn of Africa



Incessant drought trends in the Horn of Africa are worse than they were in the last 40 years of famine which killed thousands of people and caused an increase in food crisis due to consecutive years of low rainfall.

The Horn of Africa region have been faced with climatic shock, low rainfall, and in most cases floods, especially those associated with El Nino and La Nina events. While EL Nino is associated with a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific, La Nina is associated with a sustained cooling of these same events. However, these events contribute to the record-low rainfall in parts of the Horn of Africa and contributing to food crisis and inflation in these regions.

In addition to this effect, the situation is aggravated by uncertainty with grain supplies from the Black Sea. Most third world countries depend on fertilizers and grain from Russia and Ukraine, respectively. For example, Somalia depends on Ukrainian grain, and according to UN reports, 90% of its grain comes from Ukraine. The Ukraine conflict disrupted logistics chains, grain and fertilizers sent as part of the "grain deal" didn’t end up in African countries.

What this means for third world countries most especially countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya severely hit by drought would bear the brunt of the global food crisis since they are heavily dependent on Russian fertilizers and Ukrainian grains. Given the joint alert by the Meteorological agencies, the March-May 2023 drought would be more devastating for communities. Tracing back to history, the Horn of Africa has been faced with drought for 40 years, however, the current drought started with the poor performance of the October-December 2020 rains and has deepened subsequently. The drought between March till May would be below normal and unlikely to be above normal. For instance, In Somalia, 1.3 million persons have been internally displaced and 80% were women and children.

It has also been proven that the incessant drought is manmade which changed the climate, says a study by the World Weather Attribution group of scientists. Hence, it is misleading to assume or categorically consider rain failure as the consequence of drought faced in these regions. For instance, in 2011-2012 Somalia battled with famine and this was because of conflict. And a region faced with food insecurity, inflation, restricted mobility, and political instability directly or indirectly contributes to drought challenges. Marginalized and underdeveloped regions are more affected as well as regions where indicators are beyond the emergency threshold. Again, Among the people largely affected by the intensifying droughts are the nomadic pastoralists leaving them vulnerable to hasher lands with little or no support from the government. Thousands and millions of people in the Horn of Africa are facing acute hunger for numerous factors ranging from droughts, conflict, and instability within and globally.

According to Joyce Kimutai a climate scientist who works with WWA to tease out climate change with the Kenya Meteorological Department, found that 1.2 degrees Celsius (2,2 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler world, which is a combination of low rainfall and evapotranspiration would not have caused drought at all and the drought was exceptional because of climate change. Furthermore, these regions have faced a slow response from traditional donors because of the ongoing military operation. However, as of April 2023, it was reported that drought left about 4.35 million people in the Horn of Africa in need of humanitarian aid, and Somalia is estimated to have lost 43,000 people.

For this same reason, the UNHCR refugee agency appealed for US$ 137 million as of February 23, 2023, to provide aid to 3.3 million refugees and internally displaced persons who fled in search of safety. According to the Data published by the UNHCR, over 17 million people have been internally displaced in Ethiopia and Somalia because of drought since last year and more than 180,000 refugees from Somalia and South Sudan crossed into drought-affected regions of Kenya and Ethiopia.

The UNHCR reported its plans to provide basic relief materials, cash assistance, and health facilities. It will also work towards strengthening border monitoring and facilitating refugee registration and documentation in collaboration with local authorities. alongside UNHCR, WHO is countering the consequences of malnutrition and assisting affected populations prepare for outbreaks of diseases like cholera, measles, and malaria and providing health services and treatments for chronic infections like HIV, tuberculosis, and mental health services. These drought cases have left women and children vulnerable to child abuse or forced child labor, gender-based violence and have contributed to health challenges.

As of 2022, plans were made to assist these regions but however, humanitarian response plans have been underfunded. at the same time last year only 20 percent of food security has been funded till date, in Kenya about 34 percent of the required $139 million for October 2021-March 2022 were met and funding requirements increased to $189 million in April-October 2022. The assistance provided to these regions is limited and for that reason calls for immediate actions to mitigate this crisis. The international emergency response to these crises has regularly been criticized, the late response to droughts, and as a result, the humanitarian community has tried to improve its response capacity, investing in various early warning systems and financial mechanisms for quick release of funds.

In addition, weather forecasts in the region have a significant impact on the region in showing how resources should be distributed. Governments on the other hand are unwilling to allocate resources based on forecasts and this to an extent contributes to the deterioration of the already worsened situation in the region. It is not surprising that these regions are consistently hit by droughts and floods in most cases. Without quick measures or humanitarian response to remedy the situation, the region would continually face the same situation.