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Aid in the Horn of Africa

Aid in the Horn of Africa
A historically long drought in the Horn of Africa has displaced millions of families while pushing people into poverty and forcing them to resort to extreme measures to ensure their survival. The disregarded effects of extreme weather events, which disproportionately affect poverty-stricken countries and communities, have resulted in very little U.S. congressional action. However, the introduction of a resolution may be the beginning of collective governmental action to provide aid in the Horn of Africa. Rep. Karen Bass [D-CA-37] introduced a resolution (H.Res.1137) for the “drought and endemic food insecurity plaguing the Horn of Africa” in May 2022, acknowledging the role of extreme weather events in the crises afflicting the Horn of Africa.

The Role of US Foreign Aid

The resolution reaffirms the importance of USAID and the role it plays in “meeting humanitarian obligations, cultivating enduring self-reliance in developing nations, ensuring the stability of global financial markets and mitigating the likelihood of conflict in accordance with our national security interests.” Furthermore, the resolution highlights the significance of funding for emergency humanitarian aid in the most disadvantaged countries. “Supporting the development of sustainable agricultural sectors in developing nations and assisting with the international resettlement of refugees escaping droughts and extreme hunger” is also of utmost importance.

The resolution calls on the Biden administration, the Department of State and USAID to take urgent humanitarian action. The U.S. must offer “technical and material assistance, as appropriate and to the extent allowable under Federal law and congressional appropriations,” and must support not only the governments of the countries afflicted but also the organizations aiming to resolve the crisis in the Horn of Africa in order to “alleviate hunger and deliver food aid to communities impacted by the drought in the Horn of Africa.”

While a resolution does not have legal force, it represents the non-binding position of the House or Senate and the Chambers can use it to deal with internal affairs.

The Humanitarian Situation in the Horn of Africa

The Greater Horn of Africa, which consists of  Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, is an Eastern region of Africa with more than 290 million people, according to the World Bank. This region is experiencing a four-year-long drought, largely impacted by the effects of changing weather patterns that continue to worsen over the years. The drought is one of the “most severe and longest” in recent history, the United Nations Population Fund says.

Besides the lack of access to water and food resources, rising food prices and poverty also afflict the region due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. This economic crisis and food insecurity create a dangerous combination, resulting in starvation and disease as people have to choose between feeding their families or seeking out health care. Many children are especially vulnerable to disease due to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, making them that much more at risk.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing vital aid in the Horn of Africa for those who face malnutrition and disease, prioritizing the health sector.

The crisis in the Horn of Africa detrimentally impacts women as they make “perilous journeys with their families to makeshift shelters in formal and informal camps and face long distances to fetch water, heightening their vulnerability to rape, abuse and exploitation,” the UNFPA explains.

With situations becoming so dire, families are resorting to extreme measures to ensure survival. Girls are dropping out of school and child marriage is becoming more prevalent as “marrying off a daughter means one less mouth to feed,” the UNFPA says. A lack of education keeps girls in cycles of poverty and child marriage has detrimental impacts on not only the girls themselves but on entire economies.

The Crisis in Numbers

Overall, according to the WHO, in the Greater Horn of Africa, more than 46 million people within the region are experiencing acute food insecurity. In Djibouti, 400,000 people require aid but these needs are more pronounced in rural areas. With such suffering in the region, many had to relocate or flee the country as 6,086 million people face internal displacement. About 37,000 people have become refugees.

In Ethiopia, the drought is especially impactful with effects on 17 million people out of 292 million. While organizations such as the WHO are providing as much aid as possible, 51% of Ethiopia still lacks health partners and resources. About 20.4 million are suffering from acute food insecurity and almost 5 million people face internal displacement.

This drought could affect exponentially increased numbers of people in Somalia. Between April and June of 2023, the region could face famine with 8.3 million potentially experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, compared to the 6.7 million Somalis enduring this today. The children of Somalia are harshly impacted, with acute malnutrition predicted to reach 1.8 million children, 513,550 of whom may face severe malnourishment.

The resolution for aid in the Horn of Africa is a strong step in the right direction. More concrete action on the part of the U.S. is necessary to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the most impoverished region of Africa.

– Nixi Hults
Photo: Wikipedia Commons