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Drought in the Horn of Africa: FAO appeals for $172 million to help avert famine and humanitarian catastrophe

28 June 2022, Rome: With the increasing risk of famine in the Horn of Africa due to severe and prolonged drought conditions, urgent life-saving and livelihood assistance is needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned today.

As the peak of the crisis fast approaches, FAO launched a revised Rapid Response and Mitigation Plan, which exclusively focuses on four drought epicentres across the region: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The time frame for the new plan has been extended from June to December 2022 with the aim of preventing a deterioration in food security conditions in the region, saving the livelihoods and therefore the lives of almost five million rural people across the four countries.

FAO is appealing for a total of $219 million. So far, the UN Agency has mobilized around $47 million, leaving a gap of $172 million.

While the funds received thus far will provide life-saving livelihoods assistance through cash and livelihood packages, including animal health and infrastructure rehabilitation to approximately 700 000 people, millions more can be reached if the plan is fully funded.

“Agricultural livelihoods are hugely underfunded in humanitarian responses, even in droughts when agriculture bears 80 percent of the impact,” said Rein Paulsen, Director of the FAO Office of Emergencies and Resilience. “Business as usual is no longer an option. It’s time to properly invest in more efficient and forward looking assistance. This must be linked to long-term development assistance”.

Worsening food insecurity

Drought is among the most devastating of natural hazards – crippling food production, depleting pastures, disrupting markets and, at its most extreme, causing widespread human and animal deaths. Droughts can also lead to increased migration from rural to urban areas, placing additional pressures on declining food production. Herders are often forced to seek alternative sources of food and water for their animals, which can create conflict between communities, competing for the little resources available.

As of early May, the performance of the 2022 long rains season (March–May) in the region was poor, which represents an unprecedented fourth below-average rainy season for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia resulting in dire impacts on food security. Djibouti’s rainfall pattern differs to those of the other three countries though rainfall there was also erratic in 2021.

The region is already facing high levels of food insecurity. At present, 16.7 million people are projected to be in Crisis (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification – IPC – Phase 3) or worse levels of high acute food insecurity due solely to the drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In Kenya alone, 4.1 million people are likely to be highly food insecure through June 2022, over the 3.5 million initially projected over the same period.

Similarly, in Somalia, some 7.1 million people (close to half the population) now face crisis-level food insecurity or worse through at least September 2022, including 2.1 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 213 000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

The revised plan

The revised drought rapid response and mitigation plan aggregates the FAO components of the humanitarian appeals in the targeted countries. It provides further details on what urgently needs to happen to scale from January 2022 and the risks associated with an insufficient or untimely response.

The document also explains that responding to a drought is, first and foremost, about implementing the right set of actions at the right moment of the drought cycle. Partners will have to balance resources between each life-saving sector, namely a) food assistance and livelihoods; b) nutrition; c) water, sanitation and hygiene; and d) health. Failure to respond to one of the aforementioned four sectors will undermine the efforts of the others.

“Timely and at-scale implementation is required immediately,” said David Phiri, FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa Coordinator. “The cost of humanitarian action will be exponentially higher and the impact on people’s lives would be tremendous if we do not act soon enough or at the scale needed to avert catastrophe,” he added.

FAO and partners are advocating for better coordinated planning and programming. Urgent interventions include unconditional cash transfers to enable drought-affected households to cover basic expenditures on food, health and shelter; livelihood package distribution containing animal feed, vaccines, quality seeds, tools; restoring water holes; as well as trainings on good agricultural practices and nutrition.

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