Drought threatens starvation in Horn of Africa

A woman follows drought affected livestock as they walk toward a river near Biyolow Kebele, in the Adadle woreda of the Somali region of Ethiopia Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. Drought conditions have left an estimated 13 million people facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa, according to the United Nations World Food Program. (Michael Tewelde/WFP via AP)
A woman follows drought-affected livestock as they walk toward a river near Biyolow Kebele, in the Adadle woreda of the Somali region of Ethiopia Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (Photo via AP)

Millions of people in the Horn of Africa face severe hunger as the worst drought in more than 40 years could extend to a fifth consecutive failed rainy season, the United Nations and humanitarian agencies warned on Tuesday.

The March-May rainy season appears likely to be the driest on record, devastating livelihoods and deepening a humanitarian emergency in Ethiopia, Somalia and parts of Kenya, including the risk of famine in Somalia, they said in a joint statement.

There’s also a risk that the October-December rainy season could also fail.

An estimated 16.7 million people currently face acute food insecurity in East Africa and that figure could increase to 20 million by September, according to the statement.

“The threat of starvation looms in East Africa. This is after four failed rainy reasons,” said Clare Nullis, spokesperson at the World Meteorological Organization.

“We are particularly concerned that the situation is set to get worse,” she told a briefing in Geneva.
 

Aid agencies are seeking to avoid a repeat of a famine a decade ago that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“A rapid scaling up of actions is needed now to save lives and avert starvation and death,” the U.N. and agencies said in the joint statement.

“However, current appeals to respond to the drought remain well underfunded.”

Millions of livestock have died in the region while Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya have also recorded a significantly higher number of severely malnourished children admitted for treatment this year compared to past years, the statement said.

Drought has combined with a global rise in food and fuel prices, pushed up by conflict in Ukraine, to impact millions of people across the continent.