UNHCR is appealing for life-saving aid for millions affected by catastrophic Horn of Africa drought.
An estimated 18.4 million people in the greater Horn of Africa are facing severe hunger. The region is facing one of the worst droughts in recent decades, compounded by years of conflict and instability, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising food prices fuelled by the war in Ukraine.
According to the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, these factors have combined “to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine.”
Millions of people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are farmers who depend on their livestock and crops for survival. Without enough water, they cannot survive.
Abdullahi, a 55-year-old pastoralist, fled his village in Kabtinag in East Somali Region with his cattle, goats and sheep. He left his family behind because he knew the journey would be extremely harrowing.
The arid conditions were too much for his animals, with less than half making it to the Babacada El-Bahay site for Internally Displaced People in Jijiga, where he is currently living.
“I also used to have 445 goats and sheep, but now I only have 190 as the rest have died,” he said.
Since leaving home, Abdullahi hasn't been able to make contact with his wife and children.
“I don’t know what happened to them and to the others from my village who stayed: children, women, the old, and other vulnerable people,” he said.
In the past decade, the number of refugees in eastern Africa has nearly tripled, growing from 1.8 million in 2012 to almost five million today. This includes 300,000 new refugees last year alone.
The growth in refugee numbers has not been matched by a growth in resources. Refugees face imminent cuts to their food rations as humanitarian needs multiply around the world.
“Refugees and internally displaced people are at the centre of the food ration cuts, compounding a desperate situation for millions of people uprooted from their homes and often relying on aid to survive,” said Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR’s Regional Bureau Director for the East, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes.
“Families do not know where their next meal will come from and are taking on huge debt, selling off what they can, or sending their children to work.”
According to Ms Nkweta-Salami, malnourished children are already experiencing development issues.
“More and more children below the age of five years are experiencing high levels of stunting and wasting, as they lack the nutrients to grow and develop,” Nkweta-Salami said.
With drought conditions expected to get worse this year, UNHCR and partners in the regions are providing shelter, nutrition support and water for internally displaced people and their host communities. But as the crisis worsens, more people will be forced to flee their homes in search of life-saving aid.
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The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.