Complacency Puts Lives at Risk as Drought Hits East Africa  

ADDIS ABEBA – Over 15 million people are in need of aid as drought hits parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia again.  Yet lessons from the devastating droughts of 2011 and 2017 are being ignored, putting lives at risk, warned Oxfam today.

The international aid agency is calling on governments to support the aid effort which is currently just over a third funded, making it difficult to help all those who need it and prevent an even greater humanitarian crisis.

Consecutive poor rains have destroyed crops and the means to earn a living and eroded people’s ability to cope leaving 7.6 million people across the three countries in severe hunger.

The crisis is compounded as millions of people have been forced to flee their homes in the region due to conflict and the effects of drought.

Lessons learned from the 2011 famine, which killed over 260,000 people, helped avert a famine in 2017 with large scale, swift funding ensuring an effective humanitarian response, according to Oxfam.

Millions of people are still recovering from the 2017 drought, which left them even more vulnerable to the impact of the current drought.

However, at the same stage two years ago the humanitarian response was three-quarters funded.

“We learned from the collective failures of the 2011 famine that we must respond swiftly and decisively to save lives,” Lydia Zigomo, Oxfam’s Regional Director for the Horn of Africa, said.

“But the international commitment to ensure that it never happens again is turning to complacency. Once again it is the poorest and most vulnerable who are bearing the brunt,” Zigomo said.

“We cannot wait until images of malnourished people and dead animals fill our television screens. We need to act now to avert disaster.”

Oxfam’s report indicates that funding of Ethiopia and Somalia’s Humanitarian Response Plans are collectively only 35.4% funded, while the funding gap to December 2019 reaches US$1.5 billion.

The report shows the serious international shortfalls contrast with a more proactive response from the governments of the three countries.

The Kenyan government is leading its drought response with minimal international funding while Ethiopia is paying nearly half the bill of all humanitarian activities in the country.

Somalia, on the other hand, has significantly improved security and humanitarian access.

But each country must expand these efforts, and without more international support they will not be able to avert a greater crisis, Oxfam said.

Photo Caption: A woman in a community meeting in Somaliland. [Pablo Tosco/Oxfam]