An important Briefing by a group of 10 humanitarian organizations – including Save the Children – describes how the Horn of Africa which was already facing the worst food crisis of the 21st century – is also having to face the knock-on effects of the conflict in Ukraine as well as conflict within the region.
Joint NGO parliamentary briefing on Horn of Africa Hunger Crisis
The Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya – is facing the prospect of an unprecedented fourth severe drought in a decade, with more than 14 million people experiencing extreme food insecurity1. Combined with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, exponentially high food prices, desert locusts and protracted armed conflict, millions of lives could be lost if urgent humanitarian assistance isn’t
provided. Women and children are already bearing the brunt of this crisis, as families face malnutrition, increased susceptibility to diseases, increased risk of early marriage and gender-based violence, and limited access to school.
The ongoing Ukraine conflict will further impact food availability and food prices in a number of these countries that depend significantly on food grain, oil, and fertilizer imports from both Ukraine and Russia.
How the UK Government responds is a choice. The worst effects of drought can be prevented, and so can famines. Famines in the Horn of Africa have been prevented in the past, including through an effective and fast humanitarian response in Somalia in 2017. Through Britain’s humanitarian leadership, the UK has an opportunity to scale up the international response and avoid a repeat of the 2011 drought and famine that killed 260,000 people in Somalia – half of whom were under 5 years old.
● Projections indicate that 25.3 million people in the Horn of Africa will face high levels of food insecurity by June, and 5.7 million children will suffer acute malnourishment2.
● Additional funding is urgently needed to prevent the suffering of millions and the deaths of thousands from hunger.
●The region has long grappled with the effects of failed rains, with a drought in 2011 resulting in the death of 260,000 people5. The international response was deemed to be too little too late.
● Families are taking extreme measures to survive, with nearly 745,000 people in Somalia having been displaced in search of water, food and pasture since 2021.
There is a narrow window to prevent an even worse humanitarian disaster.
● ● ●
By contrast, a quick humanitarian response to a drought in 2017 – in part led by the UK Government hosting a major international conference – saved the lives of millions.
The current conflict in Ukraine is set to cause a sharp rise in global food prices and disrupt supply chains, exacerbating an already desperate situation in the Horn of Africa.
The UK Government has allocated just £19.5m so far this year to address hunger crises in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya6. To stave off the threat of famine in 2017, the UK allocated almost £700m million to these three countries.
Given that the situation today appears worse, based on the UN’s assessment of funding needed, we are calling on the Government to
urgently increase funding to £750m; at a minimum to 2017 levels.
THE 2022 CRISIS
The region has long grappled with the effects of failed rains and is now facing the third severe drought in a decade. One of the driest seasons on record has resulted in below average crop harvests, with cereal crops expected to be more than half of the 10-year average.
The drought has also caused the deaths of over 1.5 million livestock.
Projections indicate that 25.3 million people will face high levels of food insecurity by the middle of the year, and an estimated 5.7 million children will be threatened by acute malnourishment.
Families are taking extreme measures to survive, with 745,000 people in Somalia having been displaced in search of water, food and pasture since 202112. Children are at particular risk, as those
displaced become disconnected from education and health services, and those left behind are exposed to protection risks and shortages of essential items, including food. So far, the drought has disrupted education for over 1.4 million children in Somalia, of whom 420,000 are at risk of dropping out of school.
The region was already experiencing extreme levels of vulnerability before the drought, having been hit by the socio-economic implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, protracted armed conflict and the
impact of desert locusts. Through early warning mechanisms and frameworks for emergency preparedness, we know that delayed action will be catastrophic, and there is a narrow window to prevent a major humanitarian disaster. Despite the cost of a late response, the international community has chosen not to act.
Only 4% of the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia has been funded so far14, and Kenya has only secured 11% of its UN Flash Appeal to date,
THE IMPACT OF THE UKRAINE CONFLICT
The conflict in Ukraine has sent a shockwave through international food markets, disrupting supply
and inflating prices.
Ukraine is Europe’s breadbasket, with Ukraine and Russia accounting for 30 percent of global wheat exports, 20 percent of maize exports and 76 percent of sunflower supplies16. The current conflict is set to cause a sharp rise in global grain prices, with wheat predicted to rise up to 50 percent in some countries. Shipments from Ukraine have already been halted, and Russian
grain deals have been paused amongst uncertainty around sanctions.
As many as 28 million people across East Africa at risk of extreme hunger if rains fail again (Oxfam, 22 March 2022) currently experiencing acute shortages of staple foods, price increases are exacerbating an already desperate situation.
THE 2011 AND 2017 RESPONSES
2011 saw the worst hunger crisis this century in the Horn of Africa, resulting in the deaths of over 130,000 children.
Early signs of an oncoming humanitarian crisis were clear many months before the emergency reached its peak, yet the response from the international community was too little too late.
In 2017, the Horn of Africa again suffered from drought. 12 million people needed humanitarian assistance at the start of 2017, with severe food and water shortages killing livestock, destroying
livelihoods, and driving families from their homes.
Young people were disproportionately affected, with 450,000 children facing acute malnourishment.
That time round, however, a quick humanitarian response enabled millions to survive the effects of the drought. The UK Government played a leading role in this response, hosting a major international conference in London which brought together Heads of State and Government from across East Africa and other key partners. At a time when millions were without reliable access to food, the 2017 conference provided an opportunity to step up the international response to the ongoing humanitarian need.
UK GOVERNMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
The Horn of Africa Drought Conference on 26th April in Geneva was a vital opportunity for the UK to demonstrate humanitarian leadership in addressing the current crisis.
The Government should :
- Urgently commit to and disburse new and additional funding for the Horn of Africa region.
• Committing its ‘fair share’. On the basis that the UK provided £700m of funding to stave off famine in the Horn of Africa in 2017, and the size of the UN’s humanitarian response plan for
the region now, we are calling for a funding commitment of £750m.
• To safeguard support for crises like that in the Horn of Africa, ensure the UK returns to
spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on aid as soon as possible, and in the meantime
that humanitarian funding for Ukraine is new and additional to the current 0.5% aid budget.
• Prioritizing investment in nutrition, child protection and gender responsive programming and where possible, ensuring that funding is channelled through local NGOs who are best able to respond quickly and access hard-to-reach communities.
2) Galvanise the international community to act now.
19 Sharp Rise in Malnutrition and Disease in Somalia | UNICEF 20
East Africa: thousands could die if the world does not act | Save the Children
East Africa: thousands could die if the world does not act | Save the Children • Playing a leading and galvanizing role at the upcoming Geneva conference, to encourage other donors to also commit their ‘fair share’ of funding and urging them to uphold the UK-
led G7 Famine Prevention Compact commitments and the Nutrition for Growth
• Lobbying the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions to urgently unlock
emergency funding and strengthen their capacity for crisis response.
• Working with and empowering national governments to tackle barriers such as humanitarian access, as well as the underlying drivers of food insecurity, including through conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and investment to build more resilient communities and
systems that can withstand climate shocks.