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Horn of Africa crisis: one year on

The drought, war, and hunger in the Horn of Africa caused, in terms of scale and severity, the worst humanitarian crisis of 2011. Close to 13 million people were in need of emergency aid in the East African region.

Commissioner Georgieva during her visit to Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya (c) EU

The crisis reached its peak in July 2011, when the United Nations declared famine in southern Somalia. A mass exodus of Somali refugees was taking place at that time – almost a million people fled conflict, hunger, and the loss of their livelihoods. Of those who survived the trek, many found shelter in other poor, arid places lacking security, such as Yemen, Ethiopia, and particularly Dadaab – the largest refugee camp in the world in Kenya, whose population has risen to half a million people.

The European Union reacted with humanitarian aid from the earliest stages of this crisis – aid that was repeatedly scaled up to match the growing needs. Since 2011, the EU has provided €788 million in humanitarian aid to the region. The European Commission alone allocated €181 million of humanitarian aid in 2011 to assist 6.5 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia. Commissioner Georgieva visited the region twice to ensure that the EU’s help is as effective as possible. In 2012, the Commission has already allocated €132 million for humanitarian aid in the Horn of Africa.

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European aid has focused on protecting assets essential to livelihood for the most vulnerable communities and ensuring access to food to those who had lost all means to produce or buy it. Refugees, children, and pastoralists have been particularly targeted. Food assistance and the provision of water and sanitation continue to be the focus of EU assistance. The humanitarian effort, together with a relatively good rainy season this year, has improved the food security in the Horn of Africa and the famine has subsided. Yet the challenges persist; particularly in Somalia and Somali refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, where humanitarians brave conflict and risk their own safety to get aid through to those who need it. The number of vulnerable people also remains high, especially among refugees in need of sustainable solutions, and in areas where rain has not been sufficient for a good crop.

The chronic problems also remain – poverty, conflict, and lack of sustainable livelihoods. In combination with the more frequent and severe droughts, caused by climate change, these problems boost the risk of future hunger crises.

To ensure that the Horn of Africa has a chance to break the cycle of droughts and hunger and to develop, in the spring of 2012 the European Commission announced the SHARE initiative ("Supporting Horn of Africa Resilience"). It is investing €250 million to support recovery from the drought and to strengthen the population's resistance to similar crises. SHARE aims to create jobs, improve access to clean water and sanitation, support livelihood activities, boost disaster preparedness, and build stronger bridges between humanitarian and development projects. SHARE will run until 2020 – proof of the Commission's long-term commitment to the Horn of Africa.