A historic drought that began in late 2020 and is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future has put 22 million people in southern Ethiopia, northern Kenya, and Somalia in danger of starvation. This drought is projected to continue over the next few months. Since the beginning of 2022, when there were 13 million people in the Horn of Africa who were under the threat of starvation, this number has nearly doubled.
According to the United Nations, in this region, where the majority of people make their living from agriculture and livestock, almost 5.6 million people in Somalia, 12 million people in Ethiopia, and 4.3 million people in Kenya are now considered to be “acutely food insecure.” According to the most recent data that was released on January 23 by the World Food Programme (WFP), more than 1.7 million people have fled their homes in search of food and water.
One of the areas that is being affected by climate change the most severely is the Horn of Africa. According to data from the Climate Hazards Centre, a reference group that involves academics and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, eight of the 13 rainfall seasons have been below normal since the year 2016. Since late 2020, there has been a string of five unsuccessful rainy seasons, making this the first time in at least 40 years that this has happened. This has contributed to the current drought. Despite this, there has been no formal declaration of famine as of yet.
Two consecutive years of inadequate rainfall contributed to the most recent famine in the region, which occurred in 2011 and claimed the lives of 260,000 people, half of whom were children under the age of six in the country of Somalia. Crops that were previously destroyed by a plague of locusts have been wiped out over the Horn of Africa, and cattle that were desperately in need of water and grazing have been reduced in number. In November, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the deaths of more than 9.5 million heads of livestock had occurred.
This issue has been made worse by the effects of the war in Ukraine, which have led to an increase in the price of grain and fuel as well as the diversion of a significant amount of funding intended for humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian organizations are warning that the situation could worsen in the coming months with a sixth rainy season from March to May that is also expected to be below average.
More than half of Somalia’s population, or 7.85 million people, has been impacted by this drought, making it the country that has been hit the most by the drought. Due in large part to a last-minute money mobilization in late 2022, the criteria that must be crossed before an official declaration of famine can be made have not yet been crossed.
But if there isn’t a bigger response from the humanitarian community, “a famine is expected to occur between April and June 2023 in southern Somalia among agro-pastoralist populations in Baidoa and Burhakaba districts and among displaced populations in Baidoa town and Mogadishu,” Ocha warned in December. This would affect people who have been forced to leave their homes.
According to Ocha’s projections, the number of people who are currently experiencing a food “disaster,” the final step before famine according to international terminology, is predicted to climb from 214,000 to 727,000 by the middle of 2023. Nearly two million children across the Horn of Africa are in need of immediate treatment for severe acute malnutrition, which is the worst type of hunger, according to UNICEF.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in September that it estimated 730 children had died at Somalia’s feeding centers between January and July of 2022, a number that it deemed likely to be an underestimate. Because they often don’t have clean water, milk, or food, and because they often live in dirty places, the youngest children are much weaker, their bodies are more likely to get sick, and their growth is changed in a way that will last for a long time.
2.7 million Children have dropped out of school because they have been forced to leave their homes along with their families or because they are being sent every day to look for food. Another 4 million children are in danger of dropping out of school.