Horn of Africa drought: “We have to act now to prevent the worst”
Without funding to support millions of people in the Horn of Africa, the world will witness another severe food crisis and potentially a famine in parts of Somalia, warns CARE International.
“We are observing the same warning signs that preceded the famine in Somalia six years ago”, says Raheel Nazir Chaudhary, CARE’s Country Director in Somalia. Consecutive droughts over the last two years, exacerbated by one of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded, have completely depleted people’s food supplies and killed their livestock.
The roads and settlements in Sool, Sanaag and Bari regions of Somalia are littered with animal carcasses. Communities have lost half or more of their livestock. Almost all pastoralist households reported that they are reducing their daily meals. Prices for livestock, families’ main income, have plunged by 70-85 percent, while prices for water and food have skyrocketed.
“A threefold increase in water costs means it is out of reach for a vast majority of households. We are already seeing people spending half their income on water and many families are forced to migrate in search for food and pasture”, says Chaudhary.
According to CARE’s latest assessments in Somalia, families have to sell goats for 15 USD whereas they could earn 70 USD before the drought. In some areas, the price for a barrel of water has risen by 400 percent, from 2 USD before the drought to 10 USD today.
“We have lost all our livestock. We have no other source of income. We can’t find or buy water. My children and I are at risk of exhaustion and starvation”, says Rahma Ali, a 31-year old woman from the Sool area in Somalia.
More than 15 million people are currently affected by the drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. Among them are nearly 680,000 pregnant women and lactating mothers. Malnutrition during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life can have very negative lasting impact on the child’s future health and development. “Women and girls are the most affected by droughts and food crises.
As families are skipping meals and only eat once a day, women and girls eat last and the least”, warns Chaudhary. “In Somalia, women and girls are responsible for herding small livestock and collecting water. Yet as most water points dried up, they now have to walk on average 50 kilometres in search for water.”
The current drought caused by the La Niña phenomena and the strong El Niño of 2015/16 has impacted an area that suffered greatly in the 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis and famine in Somalia. Whereas since then many aid organizations, governments and UN agencies have worked to bolster families’ capacities to climate shocks, the severity of the current drought is destroying the gains made.
“The forecasts are bleak. If it won’t rain in the coming months, famine will become a possibility in Somalia. We need funding now to prevent families from tipping over the edge into severe hunger”, urges Chaudhary.
Despite repeated early warnings in 2011, the response to that crisis was too slow, and more than 260,000 people died. “Today, we still have time to implement early response programs to help protect people’s assets and food stocks, prevent people from going hungry en masse and prevent hundreds of thousands of children from suffering crippling malnutrition”, says Chaudhary. “We cannot wait until the TV cameras appear and start broadcasting starving children. The time to support is now.”
CARE Somalia has reached almost 259,000 people in Somaliland, Puntland and south central Somalia with clean water, cash transfer, relief supplies, nutrition support and protection of women and girls. CARE plans to reach another 350,000 Somalis in the next six months with crucial humanitarian aid. In Ethiopia, CARE has supported over one million drought affected people with water support, food, seeds and cash.