ADDIS ABABA – Desperately needed rains across the Horn of Africa have so far failed to materialize, almost a month into the current rainy season in the lowland part of the region.
“If these conditions continue, along with stagnant and even decreasing humanitarian aid, the number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022,” the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned Tuesday.
The UN Food agency says Somalia is facing the risk of famine, half a million Kenyans a step away from catastrophic levels of hunger and malnutrition rates in Ethiopia well above emergency thresholds.
“We know from past experience that acting early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is vital, yet our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa.
Despite warning the international community since last year that this drought could be disastrous if we didn’t act immediately, Dunford said “funding has failed to materialize at the scale required.”
The situation has been compounded by the fallout of conflict in Ukraine, with the cost of food and fuel soaring to unprecedented highs.
Drought-affected countries across the Horn of Africa are likely to be the hardest hit by impacts of the conflict – the cost of a food basket has already risen, particularly in Ethiopia (66%) and Somalia (36%) which depend heavily on wheat from Black Sea basin countries.
The disruption in imports further threatens food security. Shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January 2022.
During the 2016/17 drought in the Horn of Africa, catastrophe was avoided through early action.
Humanitarian assistance was scaled up before there was widespread hunger; saving lives and averting a devastating famine.
Due to a severe lack of resourcing this year, the UN Food agency says there are growing fears that it won’t be possible to prevent the looming disaster – “and millions will suffer as a result”.
WFP last appealed for funding in February and yet less than 4% of what was needed was raised.
Over the next six months, the agency says it needs US$473 million to scale-up much needed humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Featured Image Caption: Pastoralists, seen in a photo taken in the South Omo zone on February 23, travel long distances in search of water for their cattle. [Photo WFP]