The Horn of Africa threatened by a new drought crisis
The Horn of Africa is facing one of the worst droughts in decades. Though used to getting by in extreme climatic conditions, some populations are facing their fourth consecutive rainless year. Ten million people are now directly impacted by the effects of climate change and the looming threat of a tragic food crisis, with no means of survival.
For five years, ACTED has been mobilized to support the often remote rural and pastoral communities that struggle in times of relentless drought. From Uganda to Southern Somalia, through Kenya, our teams are operating every day to ensure access the potable water and sanitation, in order to improve the vulnerable populations’ food security, while rebuilding and developing new livelihoods.
Drought prevention work, based on early warning systems in synch with local authorities and the communities, consists of prevention and preparation for drought periods, as well as setting up substitute livelihoods, as the heart of ACTED’s intervention in the region for several years.
At a global level, ACTED is also engaged in actions of advocacy and awareness raising to issues that have a humanitarian impact, such as climate change, drought in the Horn of Africa, and in the idea of long term commitment in reducing the impact of predictable crises through interventions preventing a major food crisis.
Three questions on the drought in Africa to Patrick Cantin, ACTED deputy country director in Somalia and Kenya
What is the current situation in the Horn of Africa and what are the solutions?
Climatic disasters and famine in the Horn of Africa are now becoming recurring phenomena in repeatedly shorter cycles. Traditionally, a prolonged dry season used to appear every 3 years and a severe drought every ten years. This decade, the drought of 2005-2006 was followed by two consecutive dry spells, the drought of 2009 in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands, and the current 2011 drought. The bottom line is that drought-affected households do not have the time to rebuild their livelihoods before they are hit by another drought or dry spell, which leads to the erosion of traditional coping mechanisms and leave these populations without resources.
In both Kenya and Somalia, there is a pressing need not only for an immediate emergency response to cope with the present humanitarian situation, but also for improving Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) to stand climate change. These DRR programs have to be proved efficient in the long-term, but funding this approach is particularly challenging, all the more because emergencies are more and more often taking place.
What about the humanitarian situation in Somalia?
In late 2010, the Deyr [short rains] season failed, which resulted in massive crop failure, poor animal performance and animal deaths, leading to food shortages. When you know that crop and livestock production are the two main sources of income for populations of southern Somalia, the immediate impact of prolonged drought is striking.
From the beginning of 2011, affected households already had difficulties meeting their basic food security needs due to persistent dry conditions, losses of livelihoods, water and food shortages. The Gu season (from March/April) was expected to bring some relief, however the long rains also failed. More than a year with very little rain, and in some places no rain at all, has put severe constraint on vulnerable households in Southern Somalia, in terms of food security and nutrition. While the drought is currently hitting the whole Horn of Africa, and in particular Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, Somalia is by far the most affected country owing to several aggravating factors, which include generally poor humanitarian access, conflicts, as well as the absence of public services, in particular health services, for the past 20 years or so.
What are the priorities?
We should definitely focus on straight-forward emergency operations in Somalia: food distributions, emergency shelters and distribution of non-food items. Disaster Risk Reduction interventions should come on the long term in Somalia, whereas they are a priority on the short and medium term in Kenya along with additional programs: Cash-for-Work, livelihoods protection or integrated water and sanitation interventions.
ACTED's operations in the region
Humanitarian situation report
Impact of drought on pastoralists populations in Sakow district, and food distributions by ACTED and SADO (South Somalia)
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