Drought crisis in the Horn of Africa: Let’s act now

The scale of the crisis in the Horn of Africa is unprecedented in living memory and is forecast to deteriorate further. Five consecutive rainy seasons have failed, resulting in widespread food insecurity, risk of famine, lack of water access and increased displacements.

Why is it serious?

The situation in the Horn of Africa is dire. The ravaging drought has had devastating impacts, and over 36 million people require humanitarian assistance.

The cause? Climate change. Because the rainy seasons are fainter every time, droughts have become a repetitive rather than a rare phenomenon. They are strong and last longer every time they wipe up the region.

  • People are hungry: almost 23 million people across Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are at IPC 3 ‘crisis’ level of food insecurity and require urgent food assistance to survive;
  • People are thirsty: around 23.6 million people are struggling to access sufficient water for their daily survival;
  • People are losing their livelihoods: at least 9.5 million livestock have died;
  • People are leaving their homes: over 2.1 million people, among which 1.27 million in Somalia alone, left their homes due to drought;
  • People are falling ill: cholera and measles affect 13,000 and 23,200 people, respectively.

With five consecutive failed rainy seasons, the damages will have long-lasting consequences for present and future generations, even if the next rainy season does not fail. Our response can, however, participate in mitigating consequences and make a change for the future.

© Mattia Velati for ACTED

Famine is approaching

By February 2023, the UN estimates that up to 26 million people will be in acute food insecurity because of the fifth failed rainy season. 3 million more people will face difficulty feeding themselves sufficiently every day at the end of the rainy season.

As many water points have dried up, families are struggling to cook their food which deteriorates the quality of their nutrition, negatively impacting their health. Levels of malnutrition across the region are also soaring, with 5.1 million children in Somalia and 2.7 million in Ethiopia who are acutely malnourished in drought-affected areas.

Somalia is on the brink of widespread famine. Indeed, famine is forecast for the end of 2022 (October-December) in Burhakaba and Baidoa, two regions home to rural communities and displaced people. Some areas of Kenya and Ethiopia are likely to also slip into IPC 5 “famine” level of food insecurity. As the situation is already catastrophic, a famine declaration is irrelevant unless it brings an avalanche of donor funding with it.

When is famine declared?

Famine is declared under three conditions in any given country if over 30% of the population is malnourished (1), more than 2 persons die for 10,000 people per day (2), and 20% of the population or above are in a situation of extreme food insecurity with less than 2,100 calories per day (3).

Pastoralist communities are at risk of disappearing

Communities from rural areas living off their lands and livestock face difficulties coping with the drought. 9.5 million livestock have already perished, and more are expected to die in the upcoming months due to their already weakened state. The mass death of the livestock represents a loss of 120 million litres of milk.

As a result, many rural families are suffering from substantial income loss. In Kenya, estimations show that over 72,000 pastoralist households have lost their livelihoods. Those who have not lost it all are forced to travel long distances in search of places safe from the drought, further weakening the livestock they have left. Their lifestyle is in danger today.

© Mattia Velati for ACTED

Leaving is the only solution for many

The drought has made life insufferable at home for 2.3 million people, among which 1.27 million are in Somalia alone. They had no other choice than to leave to be able to continue to work and find sufficient food and water away from the drought.

The camps hosting displaced communities often lack comfortable living conditions. The successive arrival of hundreds of people each day makes it hard for newcomers to establish themselves comfortably in the camps. Most of them arrive with little to nothing of their possessions. Moreover, camps do not offer privacy to their residents, posing a threat to the safety of women and girls who are more exposed to sexual and gender-based violence.

Communal areas may also be ill-equipped with a shortage of sanitation and water facilities to respond to the needs of all the inhabitants, forcing some to find other sources of non-drinkable water. The lack of access to safe and drinkable water, and overcrowded spaces, accelerate the quick spread of water-borne diseases like measles and cholera.

© Mattia Velati for ACTED

Large-scale humanitarian funding and coordinated action are still required

We don't expect the pasture to regenerate or anything to change soon but rather for the situation to get worse.

Jillo Elema, ACTED Area Coordinator, Kenya

The UN estimates that over $3 billion (US dollars) is required to support the drought-affected population in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Even if funding came to respond to the crisis, it would be too late and not enough to eradicate the risk of famine for good. In 2023, humanitarian funds are still necessary to have an impact on keeping people alive. By the time any famine declaration comes, it will be too late.

Humanitarian actors must avoid only focusing assistance on accessible areas and accessible populations. Those most affected by the drought live in hard-to-reach areas such as the countryside and arid regions. Thus, humanitarian actors should manage risk by effectively targeting the most vulnerable and marginalised communities.

What we do in the Horn of Africa

Humanitarian assistance helps limiting the short-term impact of the drought

ACTED has assisted more than 1.1 million people across the Horn of Africa and continues to assist drought-affected families and communities in hard-to-reach areas. Our interventions have seen the most vulnerable persons get assistance to mitigate food insecurity and malnutrition.

As famine looms and most of the region is either in IPC 3 (“crisis”), IPC 4 (“emergency”) or IPC 5 (“catastrophe/famine”), ACTED continues providing multi-purpose cash assistance to vulnerable households. This allows responding more quickly to humanitarian needs as those who benefit from the cash assistance can buy the most needed food items without delay.

Providing access to safe and drinkable water is essential to preserve health and nutrition. ACTED restores water points such as boreholes or wells and builds sanitation facilities accessible to everyone. More than 17,000 people in the region have been able to access water, a life essential in times of crisis. Hygiene kits are also distributed to prevent the quick spread of diseases.

To ensure that displaced people live in comfortable and safe conditions, ACTED regularly monitors the services and equipment of the camps that house close to 400,000 IDPs. When needed, shelters and communal infrastructures are repaired and/or improved to better living conditions. Camp residents also receive cash assistance to help them fulfil their needs, and the community leaders are trained to participate in their management. We believe that safe environments are always critical for them to heal and maintain their dignity.

Sustainable solutions for a durable future

Droughts are becoming the norm rather than the exception, and innovative thinking followed by investment will be required. Once the crisis phase has passed, mitigation of the impacts in future years becomes a priority.

Through its holistic approach THRIVE, ACTED is working on land restoration to regenerate the wealth of the soil, eroded by successive droughts. THRIVE is a holistic approach that aims to find new and more sustainable ways to build resilience based on three pillars. REVIVE, to regenerate the soils, EMERGE, to enhance market economies in rural communities, and INTEGRATE, to promote inter-communal exchange for agropastoral and transboundary economies.

So far, ACTED has supported more than 24,000 families in Somalia and Somaliland to strengthen their food security. This has been done through water harvesting, grass replanting, tree nursery and regenerative agricultural practices. 985 hectares of degraded lands were also rehabilitated.

Our social media campaign #ActNow4HoA



Kenya: Faced with the Drought, Pastoralist Lifestyle is in Danger

RFI, October 22nd, 2022

Semi-Arid and Arid Lands in Kenya are economically dependent on farming production. In East-Samburu, with the ravaging drought, farmers encounter more and more difficulties to keep their families afloat with the sole revenue of their agricultural activities. Their living conditions have dramatically worsened, which threatens the preservation of this traditional lifestyle. Read more.


Drought & Conflict: A Never-Ending Ordeal for Somalians

Marianne, November 18th, 2022

The drought in Somalia comes at a difficult time when the country is facing multiple crises among which the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine, food prices inflation, the global Covid-19 pandemic, and the attacks by armed groups. For the inhabitants of Baidoa, the situation seems desperate as many have lost both their loved ones and their livelihood to the drought. Only education and land regeneration seem to be the solutions to save the future of the generations to come. Read more.


Kenya is experiencing the worst drought in 40 years

La Croix, November 22nd, 2022

The drought is deteriorating the living conditions of millions of people in Kenya, especially in rural communities. Cattle and crops have dramatically shrunk, and inhabitants of agricultural areas like Samburu are struggling to make ends meet. ACTED is assisting drought-affected communities and warns that the pastoralist lifestyle is now in danger. Read more.


Somalia: “We Were Forced to Flee”, in Baidoa, Influx of Refugees Searching for Help

RFI, December 6th, 2022

Forced internal displacement is one of the consequences of the drought in Somalia. Many families can no longer find food or water for survival, forcing them to flee to internally displaced people’s camps to find help. ACTED is working in these camps and highlights the necessity to find more durable solutions for these communities. Read more.


From Baidoa to Hargeisa, Famine and Devastation

Le Vif, December 15th, 2022

Faced with the choice of either staying and losing everything to the drought or leaving to be safe from armed groups, pastoralist communities are among the most vulnerable populations affected by the drought. The few remaining farmers only have sufficient food to feed their families and cattle, while the majority have lost everything without any other ways to make a living. As devastation is taking hope away, ACTED calls on donors to invest in innovation to respond to the crisis in Somalia and Somaliland. ACTED also intends to promote resilience by regenerating the soils hence protecting the pastoralist lifestyle despite the drought. Read more.

Learn more about about the drought situation


December 2022

Our drought-related actions in Kenya & Somalia


September 2022

Baidoa and Burhakaba famine alert


August 2022

Drought situation continues to deteriorate in Kenya