From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, swathes of the Horn of Africa are being ravaged by a drought that has left 20 million people starving to death.
A pledging conference was held last week to raise nearly $1.4 billion for the Region facing the worst drought in 40 years, according to the UN.
In the affected areas, people live mainly from livestock and subsistence farming.
They are experiencing their fourth bad rainy season consecutively since late 2020 – a situation exacerbated by a locust invasion that devastated crops between 2019 and 2021.
“The number of people starving due to drought could spiral from the current estimated 14 million to 20 million by 2022,” the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said last month of food insecurity and there is “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions genes prevail, the UN grumbles, the anti-itarian aid organization OCHA announced last week.
A further 6.5 million people in Ethiopia and 3.5 million in Kenya are “acutely food insecure,” it said.
Across the region, a million people have been displaced from their homes due to lack of water and pasture, and at least three million head of livestock have died, OCHA said.
“We must act now…if we want to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” Food and Agriculture Organization representative to the African Union Chimimba David Phiri said at a UN briefing in Geneva in April.
Experts say that extreme weather events are becoming more common with increasing Frequency and intensity occur with climate change.
The dire conditions in the Horn of Africa have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has contributed to rising food and fuel costs, disrupted global supply chains and aid funding from the region.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said 10 million children in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were in urgent need of life-saving assistance due to the crisis.
“Overall 1.7 million children in the subregion are severely malnourished,” she said in a statement after a four-day visit to Ethiopia last week.
Russell said a lack of clean water is increasing the risk of disease among children, while hundreds of thousands die dropped out of school and many had to travel long distances in search of food and water.
East Africa suffered from a devastating drought in 2017, but early humanitarian action averted famine in Somalia.
But in 2011, 260,000 people – half of them children under the age of six – died of starvation in the plagued country, partly because the international community did not act quickly enough, according to the UN.
About the direct In addition to potentially fatal consequences for the people affected, lack of water and grazing land is a source of inter-communal conflict, particularly among pastoralists.
The drought is also threatening the animal world. Farm animals such as cattle – an essential livelihood in the region – are dying en masse.
Wild animals are also at risk. In Kenya, there have been many cases of wild animals such as giraffes or antelopes dying from lack of water and food, their carcasses left to rot on barren scrubland.
During drought, wild animals leave their usual habitat for water or food, which often get closer to developed areas.
In central Kenya, big cats have attacked herds of livestock, while elephants or buffalo have grazed on farmland, angering local people.