Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Critical Situation in the Horn of Africa: Worst Drought for 60 years

The horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya etc) has suffered from two very poor rainy seasons, resulting in poor harvests, reduced access to already poor water supplies and therefore millions of people needing humanitarian assistance. Food insecurity in this region is complicated by difficult access for humanitarian workers to large areas of conflict-ridden state Somalia. Relief Web has published an excellent and helpful PDF by UNOCHA outlining the situation in the region. With vast areas of the region in a critical state, one level short of catastophe/famine there is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance. 

Horn of Africa: On the brink of critical famine?

Rainy seasons will always fluctuate, and we can expect more poor rainy seasons in the future. In order to prevent similar crisis situations and serious famine there needs to be an investment in infrastructure - so food can be transported easily around the country to those places in severe need. The UNOCHA states that the situation in the coastal Somalian capital of Mogadishu is poor/serious compared to critical for agro-pastoral areas in other parts of Somalia. The ease of importing food into a coastal town is much easier than other parts of the country. In Ethiopia engineering geologists have been working on roads to connect more rural parts of the country with bigger towns, which will hopefully play an important role in helping food security in the country. In addition to infrastructure development, improvements in access to and management of groundwater resources is essential for irrigation, food security and health.

Development in this region must take a two-fold approach - with rapid and urgent investment in food security. UNOCHA currently estimates that it only has around 30-50% of the funding needed. In addition a long-term development plan including more investment in infrastructure and irrigation systems must be adopted to minimise the effects of poor rainy seasons in the future.