The Horn of Africa is experiencing its driest conditions since 1981. An ongoing severe drought has left an estimated 13 million people at risk of famine in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in the first few months of this year.
The rainy season has almost completely failed three times in a row, and this has decimated the harvests. In addition, an unusual number of livestock has died; pastoralists are therefore particularly affected in all countries. In Kenya alone, for example, around 1.4 million animals have already died.
Water and pasture shortages are forcing families to leave their homes and this is leading to increasing inter-communal conflicts. The situation threatens to deteriorate further in the coming months as forecasts continue to show below-average rainfall.
According to the latest UN forecasts, more than 25 million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia could face increasing hunger by mid-year. In Kenya alone, 650,000 children are malnourished and around 4 million people will be dependent on humanitarian aid in the coming months.
The causes of the impending hunger crisis are manifold. Climate change has resulted in little to no rain for three straight years, leaving people with poor harvests and insufficient feed for their livestock. At the same time, food prices are skyrocketing in many countries. A plague of locusts had already destroyed crops and grassland in many places in the region in 2020.
After the Corona crisis exhausted their financial and material resources, many families now lack the means to weather the approaching storm.
Rising food prices, falling livestock prices and the ongoing drought are also having a devastating effect in Ethiopia and Somalia. The situation in these two countries is aggravated by the violent conflicts that often make it difficult to reach people in need with humanitarian aid.
Farm animals affected by the drought walk to a riverbank. WFP/Michael Tewelde