Rapid series of natural, man-made crises threaten millions in Horn of Africa, warns UN

Rapid series of natural, man-made crises threaten millions in Horn of Africa, warns UN

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Numerous simultaneous natural and human-made emergencies in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, ranging from drought, floods, polio and fighting to the ills these crises engender such as water-borne diseases and displacement, are threatening millions of people with disastrous humanitarian consequences, according to a United Nations report issued today.

Numerous simultaneous natural and human-made emergencies in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, ranging from drought, floods, polio and fighting to the ills these crises engender such as water-borne diseases and displacement, are threatening millions of people with disastrous humanitarian consequences, according to a United Nations report issued today.

Although the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated $57.6 million to life-saving aid, the complexity of the overlapping emergencies requires additional, timely funding with a view to sustained humanitarian assistance and early recovery, says the report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“The cumulative impact on people's lives of this string of overlapping crises in the region can hardly be overstated,” acting UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström said of this latest overview of emergencies in the Horn of Africa, which has left little or no time for recovery in-between shocks.

“Thousands are displaced by recent flooding and conflict in Somalia, Rift Valley Fever is taking its toll in terms of human lives and loss of livelihoods in Kenya, and Acute Watery Diarrhoea is spreading in Ethiopia. Some of the areas worst affected by this multitude of crises are also practically inaccessible for humanitarian workers,” she added, referring to flooding, closure of borders and generalized insecurity.

Beginning with drought in late 2005 that decimated livestock and stretched to the limit resources in the mainly pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities in north-eastern Kenya, south Somalia and southern Ethiopia, the extreme weather crisis changed character with the heavy flooding in the second half of 2006, covering roughly the same areas. Drought affected 7 million people and the floods at least 1.5 million of the same people.

In December 2006, fighting in Somalia and the simultaneous outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) caused serious economic losses in livestock and further exacerbated an already grave situation. RVF, a viral haemorrhagic disease that has killed at least 95 people in Kenya, is feared to be spreading rapidly into inaccessible areas in Somalia.

Acute watery diarrhoea in Ethiopia following the floods has sickened more than 51,000 people, killing 556 of them, and malaria prevalence is also high due to stagnant water. A yet unknown fatal camel disease is suspected to have crossed the border between the Somali Region of Ethiopia and the conflict-affected Hiran and Gedo regions in Somalia.

Although the overall impact in terms of loss of life is as yet unknown, the immediate adverse effect on people’s health, nutrition, protection and security is evident and the more disturbing as humanitarian access to affected populations is hindered or hampered by flooding and/or security measures.

Security for aid workers remains uncertain in Somalia. There have been incidents of aid staff being harassed and detained by the Ethiopian military which is backing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in ousting Islamist groups, and some aid flights have been refused landing permission.

There are concerns of a resurgence of warlords’ power in southern Somalia with reports of armed militia setting up checkpoints on roads leading out of Mogadishu, the capital, and extorting money from travellers, the overview warned. Incidents of rape by militia have also been reported.