What are the needs?
The prolonged drought is particularly severe in Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia as well as northern Kenya and parts of its coast. Some 17 million people are affected by food insecurity and water shortages which are expected to worsen in the coming months as the dry season progresses. The March-to-May rainy season is expected to yield below-average rains, dampening prospects of good harvests. Water levels are fast declining and are at an all-time low in certain areas. Vegetation is sparse. Livestock deaths, high food prices and reduced incomes are being reported.
The drought comes on the heels of the erratic weather occasioned by the El Niño weather phenomenon in 2015-16. In Ethiopia, it left 10 million people in need of food aid and prompted the biggest drought response operation in the country’s history. Although livestock died massively, a large-scale famine was avoided. Today, some of the same areas continue to experience drought after four consecutive failed rainy seasons.
The Horn of Africa hosts 2.3 million refugees. Ongoing crises in Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia account for the majority of refugees. As there is no end in sight to the conflicts in these countries, which are at the same time experiencing severe food shortages, the mass return of refugees is not an option. On the contrary, more displacement and refugee flows are to be expected. A long-term effort on the part of the international community is needed to help the host countries cater for refugees’ basic needs and, where possible, offer them more long-term prospects.
How are we helping?
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has provided over €1 billion to its partners in the Horn of Africa since 2011. In 2016 alone, the European Commission allocated over €267 million in humanitarian aid, including a €163-million package for countries in the Horn most affected by El Niño. In 2017, an initial budget of €132 million has been allocated to the region.
These humanitarian funds are aimed at delivering food assistance, health and nutrition care, clean water, sanitation and shelter to those whose lives are threatened by drought and conflict. Across the Horn of Africa, providing assistance and protection to uprooted populations, be they internally displaced, refugees or returnees, is a priority. In addition, increased emergency financing is now required on the part of all donors to allow for immediate action and avoid famine.
The European Commission funded food assistance is delivered partly in-kind, but also increasingly through cash where markets are well-stocked. The trucking of water to communities without any water source has become a necessity in some areas. ECHO also supports the treatment of severely malnourished children across the region.