With only one-quarter of expected rainfall received in the Horn of Africa in the October-December period, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for an immediate response to prevent widespread drought conditions from becoming a catastrophe.
“The magnitude of the situation calls for scaled up action and coordination at national and regional levels,” FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo told a high-level panel on humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, which was held yesterday on the side lines of the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.
“This is, above all, a livelihoods and humanitarian emergency – and the time to act is now. We cannot wait for a disaster like the famine in 2011,” she added.
FAO estimates that over 17 million people are currently in crisis and emergency food insecurity levels in member-countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), namely Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, which are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Currently, close to 12 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are in need of food assistance. Much of Somalia, north-east and coastal Kenya, south-east of Ethiopia as well as the Afar region are still to recover from El Niño-induced drought of 2015/16 while South Sudan and Darfur region of Sudan are facing the protracted insecurity.
Acute food shortage and malnutrition also remains to be a major concern in many parts of South Sudan, Sudan (west Darfur) and Uganda’s Karamoja region.
FAO warns that if response is not immediate and sufficient, the risks are massive and the costs high.
For his part Mr. Guterres called for a stronger commitment to work together: “We must express total solidarity with the people of Ethiopia on the looming drought, as a matter of justice.”
“FAO’s partnership to build resilience to shocks and crises in the Horn of Africa is critical and will increase,” said FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Bukar Tijani.
Recently, FAO and IGAD agreed on some key steps to enhance collaboration in mitigating the severe drought currently affecting the countries in the Horn of Africa region and strengthening food security and resilience analysis.