Millions brace for hunger in Horn of Africa as drought set to drag on: WMO

Severe drought is affecting more than 10 million people in Ethiopia, forcing many to leave their their homes and stay in internal displacement camps like Higlo in the Somali region. (Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia/2022/Demissew Bizuwerk)

There are no signs of respite for the Horn of Africa as UN projections show that its longest drought in 40 years is set to persist over the rest of the year.

The Horn of Africa is headed for a fifth failed rainy season in two years, setting parts of the region for an “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe”, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned on Friday. 

Projections by the WMO’s regional centre in East Africa show that rainfall levels from October to December will remain below average in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

“The seasonal rainfalls will not be sufficient to alleviate the crisis,” said Clare Nullis, WMO spokesperson.

What’s happening. The region is facing its worst drought in 40 years, causing crops to fail and cattle to die. At the same time, two years of Covid and the spike in food and fuel prices due to the war in Ukraine have pushed millions towards the brink of hunger. According to UN estimates for the Horn of Africa:

  • Over 60 million people face food insecurity.

  • Nearly 30 million people are not consuming enough food and have high levels of malnutrition.

  • More than 7.3 million people are suffering from extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition, and other disease risks

  • 700,000 are experiencing famine conditions.

Funding woes. UN agencies working in the region have launched several appeals for more aid funds, but have had trouble gathering support. The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked for $123.7 million to stave off disease outbreaks. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has a drought response plan for the Horn of Africa but it is only half funded.

“The majority of food insecure people are in rural areas struggling to produce food. Yet, agricultural livelihoods are most often greatly underfunded in humanitarian responses (even in droughts when agriculture bears 80 per cent of the impact),” FAO recently told Geneva Solutions in an email.

Read more: As famine looms over horn of Africa, calls for help fall on deaf ears

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA), told reporters: “Our strategy right now is of course getting more money from the donors that we have but also extending our donor base, getting more countries on board, (...) also the private sector, high net worth income individuals, and any citizens of the world who can spare a dollar.”