Home NewsAfrica FAO appeals for $172m to avert famine, humanitarian catastrophe in Horn of Africa

FAO appeals for $172m to avert famine, humanitarian catastrophe in Horn of Africa

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

With the risk of famine rising in the Horn of Africa due to severe and prolonged drought conditions, urgent assistance is needed to save lives and livelihoods to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned.

As the peak of the crisis rapidly approaches, FAO has released a revised Rapid Response and Mitigation Plan, which focuses exclusively on four epicenters of drought in the region: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The term of the new plan has been extended from June to December 2022 with the aim of avoiding a deterioration of food security conditions in the region, saving the means of subsistence and, therefore, the lives of almost five million rural inhabitants of the four countries.

The FAO requests a total of $219 million. So far, the United Nations agency has mobilized around $47 million, leaving a deficit of $172 million.

While the funds received so far will provide vital livelihood assistance through cash and livelihood packages, including animal health and infrastructure rehabilitation for approximately 700,000 people, millions more can be reached if the plan is fully financed.

“Agricultural livelihoods are seriously underfunded in humanitarian responses, even in droughts, when agriculture bears 80% of the impact,” said Rein Paulsen, Director of FAO’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience.

“Business as usual is no longer an option. It’s time to properly invest in more efficient and forward-thinking care. This must be linked to long-term development assistance.”

Worsening food insecurity

Drought is among the most devastating of natural hazards: it cripples food production, depletes pastures, disrupts markets and, in its most extreme form, causes widespread deaths of people and animals.

Droughts can also lead to increased migration from rural to urban areas, putting additional pressures on declining food production. Pastoralists are often forced to search for alternative sources of food and water for their animals, which can create conflicts between communities, competing for the few resources available.

In early May, the 2022 extended rainy season (March-May) performance in the region was poor, representing an unprecedented fourth below-average rainy season for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, which had a dire impact on food security. Djibouti’s rainfall pattern differs from those of the other three countries, although rainfall was also erratic in 2021.

The region already faces high levels of food insecurity. Currently, 16.7 million people are projected to be in crisis (IPC Integrated Food Security Phase Classification – Phase 3) or worse levels of high acute food insecurity due to drought alone in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

In Kenya alone, 4.1 million people are likely to be highly food insecure through June 2022, up from 3.5 million initially projected for the same period.

Similarly, in Somalia, some 7.1 million people (close to half the population) now face crisis-level food insecurity or worse through at least September 2022, including 2.1 million people in Emergency (Phase 4 of the CIF) and 213,000 people in Catastrophe (CIF). Phase 5).

The revised plan

The revised rapid response and drought mitigation plan aggregates the FAO components of humanitarian appeals in target countries. It provides more detail on what urgently needs to happen to scale from January 2022 and the risks associated with an insufficient or untimely response.

The document also explains that responding to a drought is first and foremost about implementing the right set of actions at the right time in the drought cycle. Partners will need to balance resources across each vital sector, namely: a) food assistance and livelihoods; b) nutrition; c) water, sanitation and hygiene; and d) health. Failure to respond to one of the four sectors mentioned above will undermine the efforts of the others.

“Timely and large-scale implementation is required immediately,” said David Phiri, Coordinator of the FAO Sub-Regional Office for East Africa. “The cost of humanitarian action will be exponentially higher and the impact on people’s lives would be tremendous if we don’t act soon enough or on the scale necessary to prevent a catastrophe,” he added.

FAO and its partners advocate for better coordinated planning and programming. Urgent interventions include unconditional cash transfers to enable drought-affected households to cover basic food, health and housing expenses; distribution of livelihood packages containing animal feed, vaccines, quality seeds, tools; restoration of water wells; as well as training on good agricultural practices and nutrition.

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