Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, T.D., today called for urgent international action to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn of Africa, where up to 30 million people are facing acute hunger following four consecutive failed rainy seasons.
With regions of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya on the verge of famine, Minister Brophy has called on the international community to urgently prioritise a humanitarian response to save lives.
Minister Brophy said:
“The Horn of Africa is facing a humanitarian catastrophe. We are seeing an alarming rise in malnutrition and mortality levels, particularly in Somalia. Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed, meaning crops have not grown and animals are dying in huge numbers. That has left millions of people with no source of food or income.
“People in the region are experiencing a perfect storm of an unprecedented drought, along with conflict, political instability, the impact of Covid-19, and soaring global food, fuel and fertiliser prices arising from Russia’s war in Ukraine. There is a real risk that the October to December rainy season will also fail, pushing an already severe humanitarian crisis to a full blown catastrophe.”
Minister Brophy has welcomed the work of Irish NGOs in the region and the ongoing efforts to highlight the alarming humanitarian crisis. Dóchas, the Irish Network for International Development and Humanitarian Organisations, today [June 14] held a briefing on the situation aimed at rallying public support for the humanitarian response.
“Ireland is playing a key role in saving lives across the region. Irish Aid has provided over €48 million in direct humanitarian funding to Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya since last year. As ever, Irish NGOs have been fast to respond to the crisis. Irish Aid is working in partnership with Irish NGOs to deliver life-saving support and also through long term development funding – €12.4 million in 2021 – to support resilience building.
“The global response to this unfolding disaster has to speed up. I urge all humanitarian partners to step up their efforts to provide life-saving assistance to prevent widespread famine in the region”
The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the most severe droughts in at least forty years. Up to 30 million people face hunger, dire water shortages and lack of pasture has also killed millions of livestock, devastating livelihoods and leaving families destitute. In cropping areas, harvests are well below average, increasing dependency on food markets at a time when households have limited ability to purchase food due to skyrocketing prices.
Over a million people have been displaced by the drought in Somalia and Southern Ethiopia, as families leave their homes in search of food, water and pasture, increasing their vulnerability and exposure to protection risks. In Ethiopia, the drought conditions in the south are driving increased humanitarian needs at a time when millions are already in need of humanitarian aid due to the ongoing conflict in Tigray and neighbouring regions in the north of the country.
The drought is having devastating consequences for women and children, heightening the risk of gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and abuse and hampering children’s access to education. In some communities, child marriage has reportedly risen as families adopt negative coping mechanisms to survive.
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has had a serious impact on food insecurity in the region, where wheat and wheat products account for one third of the average national cereal consumption. 92% of that demand is typically met by imports, largely from Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, fertilizer supplies and prices have also been impacted by the conflict, with Russia and Belarus normally providing one-fifth of the world’s supply.
Minister Brophy added:
“It is essential that we respond to the humanitarian needs of those affected by the rise in food prices and related food insecurity. It’s also essential that we address the underlying causes of food insecurity. That’s why, on the United Nations Security Council, Ireland has shone a spotlight on the links between conflict and hunger, and conflict and climate change. It is also why through the Irish Aid programme Ireland is championing investment in food systems, including climate smart agriculture. Irish Aid will invest over €800 million in food and nutrition over the five years to 2027.”