Horn of Africa drought drives 20 million toward hunger
Up to 20 million people are on the brink of hunger from extreme drought in different African regions, from Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia.
Drought has wrecked swaths of land across the Horn of Africa, from southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, putting 20 million people at risk of hunger.
Last week's donor meeting garnered about $1.4 billion for the region, which the UN claims is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years.
People in the affected areas make a living mostly through herding and subsistence farming.
They are in the midst of their fourth straight dry season since the end of 2020, which has been aggravated by a locust infestation that has wiped out crops between 2019 and 2021.
"The number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022," the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said last month.
Six million Somalis, or 40% of the population, are facing significant food insecurity, and there is a "very serious risk of famine in the next months" if current conditions continue, according to the UN humanitarian response agency OCHA.
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Another 6.5 million Ethiopians and 3.5 million Kenyans are "acutely food insecure," according to the report.
According to OCHA, a lack of water and pasture has driven one million people from their homes across the region, and at least three million head of livestock have died.
"We must act now... if we want to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe," the Food and Agriculture Organization's representative to the African Union, Chimimba David Phiri, said at a UN briefing in Geneva in April.
Extreme weather events, according to experts, are becoming more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.
The deterioration of conditions in the Horn of Africa has been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine, which has led to rising food and fuel prices, disrupted global supply networks, and diverted assistance funds away from the region.
According to UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell, ten million children in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia require immediate life-saving assistance as a result of the crisis.
"Overall 1.7 million children are severely malnourished across the sub-region," she said in a statement after a four-day visit to Ethiopia last week.
East Africa experienced a devastating drought in 2017, yet early humanitarian intervention saved Somalia from famine.
However, according to the UN, 260,000 people died of starvation in the turbulent country in 2011, half of whom were children under the age of six, in part because the international community did not intervene quickly enough.
Animal kingdom threat
Aside from the direct and potentially fatal repercussions for those affected, a lack of water and grazing land is a source of inter-communal strife, particularly among herders.
The drought also poses a hazard to the animal kingdom. Cattle, an important source of livelihood in the region, are dying in large numbers.
Wildlife is also a danger. Many wild species, such as giraffes and antelopes, have died in Kenya due to a lack of water and food, their carcasses decaying on barren scrubland.
In times of drought, wild animals will leave their typical habitat in search of water or food, often venturing closer to developed areas.
Big cats have attacked livestock herds in central Kenya, while elephants and buffaloes have taken to grazing in fields, infuriating locals.