WFP Executive Director Briefs Board On Horn Of Africa Crisis

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran (Copyright: Rein Skullerud)

WFP’s preparations for the current drought in the Horn of Africa have already saved many lives thanks to the greater resilience of the threatened population, Executive Director Josette Sheeran told the WFP Board at an informal briefing in Rome on Friday.

ROME -- WFP’s preparations for the current drought in the Horn of Africa have already saved many lives thanks to the greater resilience of the threatened population, Executive Director Josette Sheeran told WFP board members at a briefing in Rome on Friday.

Sheeran thanked donors for being supportive of preparations for this emergency after its onset was flagged to them back in February. One example of these preparations was the pre-positioning of 400 metric tons of food in the Horn of Africa region in the spring.

Anticipated drought

WFP has anticipated the impact of the drought on communities living in the Horn of Africa region and has been delivering a range of food assistance including emergency food rations, while supporting food safety net programmes such as free school meals.

In the dry Karamoja region of northern Uganda, local communities were showing more resilience than in the 2007-2009 drought, the Executive Director noted, pointing to a new system of communal food stocks that are replenished at harvest time.

Meanwhile, the creation of a Horn of Africa Plan of Action, signed by WFP, FAO and Oxfam a year ago, has provided a clear basis for joint action, Sheeran said.

Forward purchasing

Another way WFP has been preparing is through the forward purchasing of food. By using advance financing mechanisms the agency is able to ensure that the right commodities arrive at the right time. In this way special programmes such as those targeting nutrition for children under-five years of age get the support and resources they require.

As part of its response to the drought in the Horn of Africa, WFP is distributing food assistance in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia. 

Recalling that at present WFP has access to the Mogadishu, central and northern regions of Somalia, but not the south, Sheeran said the agency was exploring the possibility of returning to the southern part as and when conditions allowed it.

WFP withdrew from areas under Al-Shabab control in southern Somalia at the beginning of 2010 because of threats to the lives of staff and the imposition of unacceptable operating conditions, including the imposition of informal taxes, and a demand that no female staff work there.