Horn of Africa at a critical stage

Published on 15 August 2008

Poor rains in the normally wet March-to-May period, compounded by high food and fuel prices, have hit the Horn of Africa region hard. Drought-affected people in the region now number 17.5 million.

As many people watch their crops and livestock die, the situation is made worse by conflict, animal disease, inflation and poverty.
"The Horn of Africa region is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since 1984, and Ethiopia is caught in the middle", said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran.
WFP is pulling out all the stops in an effort to prevent hunger from further endangering the populations of these nations.
Below is a summary of the situation in each country.

Ethiopia

More than 12 million people are affected by a drought in southern, central, western and north-eastern Ethiopia. Crop production is decreasing and livestock are dying. Malnutrition is rising and rural people are forced to migrate to towns for cheap labour, or to sell firewood and charcoal.

    * People are coping by cutting down on the number of meals they eat, selling farm tools and other assets such as livestock and withdrawing their children from school so they can help find food.
    * More than 9 million people currently need WFP assistance. The number could rise.
    * In recent years the government, in cooperation with WFP and donors, has set up programmes to help 7.5 million chronically food-insecure people with cash or food transfers to help them improve their livelihoods and become self-sufficient.
    * Because of a shortage of resources, rations for people in these programmes have had to be reduced by a third. This comes just as Ethiopia is going into the peak hunger season when cereal prices are at their highest.
    * Download the media backgrounder

Somalia

Somalia is in the grip of a deepening humanitarian disaster, struggling with drought, conflict, hyperinflation, high food and fuel prices, the weakness of the Somali shilling against the US dollar and a succession of poor harvests.

    * This combination of factors has increased the number of people needing humanitarian assistance to 3.245 million, an increase of 77 percent since January 2008.
    * Without large-scale intervention by humanitarian organizations over the coming months, parts of the country risk disaster similar to the famine years of 1992-1993.
    * WFP is gradually scaling up its distributions from more than a million a month to 2.4 million in December. To do this it must double the amount of food it is bringing into Somalia to 32,000 metric tons per month.
    * Some 90 percent of all WFP food for Somalia arrives by sea. WFP is urgently appealing to governments to escort naval vessels to protect ships loaded with WFP food from piracy, which is threatening its maritime supply route.
    * Download the media backgrounder

Uganda

In the poor Karamoja region of northeastern Uganda, delayed and erratic rains mean that up to 90 percent of people have not planted for the current growing season.

    * This is Karamoja’s third consecutive year of poor agricultural performance and prospects for improvement in the main September harvest are poor, meaning the earliest chance for proper recovery is September 2009.
    * In response to the drought, WFP has provided food for a total of 707,000 people since March.
    * A shortage of contributions, the rise in international and local cereal prices and dwindling in-country stocks meant that in July, WFP could only give a full ration to 100,000 of the total of 707,000 in need.
    * Recent surveys have shown acute malnutrition at over 15% in two districts (Moroto and Nakapiripirit). More than 10 million people are affected by a drought in southern, central, western and north-eastern Ethiopia. Crop production is decreasing and livestock are dying. Malnutrition is rising and rural people are forced to migrate to towns for cheap labour, or to sell firewood and charcoal.
    * People are coping by cutting down on the number of meals they eat, selling farm tools and other assets such as livestock and withdrawing their children from school so they can help find food.

Kenya

In Kenya, WFP’s emergency operation is expanding its food assistance operation to more than 1 million people in arid and semi-arid areas because of below normal rains in the North and Northeast. A further 300,000 people displaced by post-election violence are also receiving WFP food assistance.

    * Kenya faces an overall food deficit this year because of the post-election violence that disrupted production and high fertilizer and fuel prices.
    * Wholesale prices of main food commodities have risen more than 50 percent in key markets so far this year.
    * Acute malnutrition among children under 5 has reached almost 30 percent in some parts of the Turkana district in the North – nearly twice the emergency threshold level.

Djibouti

Three below-average rainy seasons have created drought conditions which are stretching traditional coping mechanisms to the limit. Many people, especially pastoralists, are in need of immediate food assistance.

    * Rising food prices have exacerbated the impact of the drought. Research indicates that the cost of the staple food basket is now 63 percent above the minimum salary in Djibouti city.
    * A recent survey by the Ministry of Health, WFP and UNICEF showed worrying global acute malnutrition rates of 16.8 percent amongst under fives in Djibouti, rising to 25 percent in the northwest.
    * Many people have migrated to the city where they hope to be supported by friends and family. They are generally living in slums on the outskirts of the city in very poor conditions – no running water, electricity, healthcare, schooling and little or no employment.
    * WFP is increasing the number of people targeted with food assistance to 149,000 and is currently looking at the possibility of mounting a programme of urban distributions, targeting about 50,000 people.
  

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