Aid Groups Warn 15 Million in Horn of Africa Need Food Aid After Successive Failed Rainy Seasons
23:36 GMT 02.02.2022 (Updated: 14:11 GMT 14.02.2023)
A severe water shortage in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia has already been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of cattle, and aid workers are warning that the number of people in need of aid is rising quickly. This comes amid another humanitarian crisis in the north caused by 14 months of war.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has warned of severe drought in Ethiopia’s lowland regions of Afar, Oromia, the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ (SNNPR) Region, and the country’s eastern Somali Region. Much of the area hasn’t seen sufficient rain for more than a year, causing wells to dry up and creating severe food and water shortages.
“The impact of the drought is devastating,” UNICEF Ethiopia Representative Gianfranco Rotigliano said in a Wednesday news release. “Children and their families are struggling to survive due to loss of livelihoods and livestock, and it is projected that more than 6.8 million people will be in need of urgent humanitarian assistance by mid-March 2022. We are also witnessing major displacement out of affected areas.”
“In drought-affected areas in Oromia and Somali, around 225,000 malnourished children and over 100,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women need urgent nutrition support,” Rotigliano added. “The lack of clean water is further exacerbating the situation for children and women. If children are forced to drink contaminated water, it puts them at risk to various diseases, including diarrhea, which is a major cause of deaths among children under five.”
Earlier this month, Ethiopian news outlet Borkena reported that more than 160,000 cattle in the Somali Region had already perished. Livestock is a staple of pastoral society in the region, with the regional cross-border livestock trade supporting tens of millions of people. In neighboring Somalia, livestock exports account for 80% of the country’s total exports, according to the US Agency for International Development.
The Horn of Africa typically gets two wet seasons per year: one from March through May and another from October through December. According to UNICEF, the region has seen three consecutive failed rainy seasons, going back to 2020.
The Horn isn’t alone in struggling against drought and famine, either: in September, Malagasy President Andry Nirina Rajoelina pleaded for help before the United Nations General Assembly, warning that four consecutive dry years threatened Madagascar with a massive famine. He identified the dry spell, triggered by changes in the monsoon-creating El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, as being influenced by man-made climate change.
According to a Tuesday report by the UN World Food Program, international aid had succeeded in pulling all Malagasy out of the worst stage of famine, despite another failed rainy season, but warned that nearly 1.5 million people remain in the second- and third-highest classifications of famine.
UNICEF said Tuesday that it has sent $31 million to Ethiopia for food relief, but that at least 10 times that were still required, as more than 2 million people remain vulnerable. In December, Oxfam pointed the finger at climate change for the Horn’s drought as well.
“We did not receive rain for two seasons,” Maryan Abdulaahi, a farmer in Somalia who lives in Dudumaale, near the border with Ethiopia’s Somali Province, told Oxfam. “Our livestock and own lives are in danger. In Dudumaale, we use to fetch water from berkeds [cisterns], but all berkeds are empty right now. A drum of water costs $4, which we cannot afford.”
In its own statement on Tuesday, the Somalia NGO Consortium, the coordinator of myriad relief groups that work in Somalia, warned that 7.7 million people in that country needed food relief, but that groups had received just 2% of the funding needed to address that need.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited the Somali State capital of Jigjiga last week to witness the scale of the crisis, promising to send aid, as well as to invest in longer-term water management projects, such as building dams and scaling up lowland water management schemes.
On Wednesday, Mustafe Omer, president of Somali State, tweeted photos of dozens of trucks of animal feed that he said had been sent by Amhara Regional State President Yilikal Kefale.
1)Profound thanks & gratitude to the Amhara Regional State and its President H.E Dr. Yilikal Kefale for supporting drought response activities in somali region through the provision of trucks of animal feed. pic.twitter.com/h9jEhGqYYp— Mustafe M. Omer (@Mustafe_M_Omer) February 2, 2022
2) Given the serious humanitarian in Amhara region following the TPLF aggression, their decision to support the drought-affected Somali people is a gesture of generosity, which is an example of the brotherly cooperation between the peoples of the two regions in the post-TPLF era. pic.twitter.com/M8tIWWuoUk— Mustafe M. Omer (@Mustafe_M_Omer) February 2, 2022
“Given the serious humanitarian [situation] in Amhara region following the TPLF aggression, their decision to support the drought-affected Somali people is a gesture of generosity, which is an example of the brotherly cooperation between the peoples of the two regions in the post-TPLF era,” Omer said. Between July and December of last year, Amhara and Afar states became battlefields after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) launched an offensive from the northern Tigray state into the surrounding provinces, making a drive on the capital of Addis Ababa before being pushed back in a December counteroffensive.
The TPLF ruled all of Ethiopia for 27 years before losing power in 2018 when Abiy, an Oromo, came to power at the head of a movement by Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups who had tired of decades of TPLF rule that privileged Tigray over other provinces. When the TPLF repudiated Abiy’s government and attacked Ethiopian forces in November 2020, it triggered a war that drew in neighboring Eritrea, displaced more than 4 million people, and triggered its own food crisis for more than 9.4 million people.
The TPLF has claimed the crisis is Abiy’s creation, but the group has been accused of seizing international food aid and using it as a coercive enlistment tool, and when the group launched another new offensive into Amhara and Afar late last month, it disrupted the plans of a massive WFP aid convoy en route to Tigray that was forced to turn back to Djibouti.