The drought in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya is particularly hard on herding and farming families, who depend on land and livestock to survive.

Drought in East Africa fuels worsening hunger crisis

Our teams in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are scaling up programmes to help communities affected by a lack of rain.

By Action Against Hunger

Jun 13 2019

Across the Horn of Africa, people are feeling the impact of severe drought. Farmers are struggling to achieve crop targets, livestock are dying, and food prices have increased. The human toll is expected to grow as people struggle to survive with less food and water.

This is not just a dry spell. So far, during this year’s heavy rain season – typically falling between March and June – rainfall has reached less than half of the average rate.

In Somalia, where the rains at this time of year are known as the Gu, the situation is especially alarming. According to the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the 2019 Gu rains are the third driest on record. Somali communities are still recovering from prolonged drought in 2016-2017, and many are unable to cope.“

Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases,” warned Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Millions in need of humanitarian support

The failure of crops and livestock are fuelling hunger and displacement throughout the region – hitting farmers and herders in the rural communities of Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia particularly hard.

Estimates warn that 2.2 million people in Somalia could face crisis or emergency levels of acute food insecurity by July – one step away from famine. Overall, more than 23.3 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan.

Severe drought in the Horn and East Africa is displacing communities and driving hunger that threatens to worsen in the coming months.
Severe drought in the Horn and East Africa is displacing communities and driving hunger that threatens to worsen in the coming months. Photo: Khadija Farah/ Action Against Hunger, Somalia.

Rain is beginning to fall in some areas, but it may be too late to avoid a hunger crisis.

“Even if the drought improves, the nutrition situation will still be concerning,” says Hajir Maalim, Regional Director for Action Against Hunger’s programmes in the Horn and East Africa. “Crops have failed and not been replanted, so the next harvest season will be poor. Without relief, families will face a serious scarcity of food and nutrition.”

Addressing the causes of hunger

Over the last few months, the region has already seen a growing number of people going hungry. These increases are alarming, and likely do not reflect the full scale of the potential crisis.

“Right now, we suspect there are many cases going undetected and untreated,” Hajir adds. “Families in rural areas live far from health services – it’s often a 10-12 mile walk to the nearest healthcare centres, which costs significant time and money.

“That’s why we must continue to work closely with community health workers to promote early detection and treatment of malnutrition.”

With more than 1,300 experienced staff members in the region, we’re working with communities to expand the reach of our nutrition programmes, improve access to clean water and safe sanitation, and strengthen local capacity to understand and address the causes of hunger and food insecurity.

somalia crisis
somalia crisis

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Banner image: Toby Madden/ Action Against Hunger, Mali.