Aid agencies have warned that the number of people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa is expected to reach 20 million by the end of September, without a strong response to the ongoing drought.
The warning comes after a fourth consecutive rainy season for the region without sufficient rain. The worst drought in 40 years has killed more than 7 million animals in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
In parts of East Africa, communities have not seen significant rainfall for the past two years.
Yusuf Gurey, 67, who lives in northeastern Kenya, said he had lost 294 animals to the drought.
“We have never seen such a persistent drought, a drought that has wiped out pasture and a drought that has left the animals with nothing to feed,” he said, “where do you get that money to feed them? And you’re unemployed?”
Shashwat Saraf is the Regional Emergency Director for East Africa with the International Rescue Committee. He said pastoral communities living in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are feeling the effects of the drought, and millions are moving in search of water, food and pasture.
“We are seeing anywhere from 60 to 100 per cent loss of livestock, which is the mainstay for the population as they have lost their only source of livelihood,” he said. “We are seeing massive displacement of homes and people moving to urban centers or moving to other places and finding ways to make their household food safer.”
Agencies say that since mid-2021, a third of all livestock have died in Somalia and 3.6 million livestock have died in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Alyona Sinenko, regional spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Somalia is the country most affected by three more decades of conflict, which has complicated the situation for victims and aid agencies.
“The needs are immense and sometimes you see people and you see people who have been displaced and have lost everything,” she said. “So it’s hard to say that people are getting the help they need because their needs are so important. We also talk about a crisis that is one of the longest lasting crises in the region and There is also a level of donor fatigue, especially when there is a lot of competition for humanitarian funds, so sometimes we have to make a very difficult choice.”
The combination of harsh weather and rising food and fuel prices has made the humanitarian outlook worrying for months to come.
The United Nations Humanitarian Office, UNOCHA, said there was a threat of famine in Somalia, and more than 80,000 people were facing extreme hunger. Officials also said on Tuesday that severe malnutrition is on the rise in all three countries and poses an immediate threat to the lives of children.
The United Nations and aid agencies have reached 6.5 million people in affected areas with food, water and health services. They warn of the need for more money and food to save lives in the coming months.
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