Drought in the Horn of AfricaAfrica is heating up at a rate outpacing the rest of the world, putting it at higher risk of severe climate conditions. The rainy season in Western Africa typically lasts from May to October. By March of 2023, the region was enduring its sixth consecutive failed rainy season, concluding with a historic drought in the Horn of Africa. It left millions of people displaced and created a massive humanitarian crisis. A State of the Climate of Africa report estimated nearly $9 billion in economic damage. It warned that “the diminishing natural resource base could fuel conflicts” as resources dry up and demand increases.

Impacting the Vulnerable

Those living in poverty struggle the most with climate-related disasters as their access to basic needs like food and water is limited. Droughts affect many areas of daily life, from agricultural output to air pollution and deforestation. Deforestation leads to diminishing numbers of trees and plants to capture pollutants from the air, like CO2, that worsen droughts and increase the risk of wildfires.

Mitigating drought in the Horn of Africa includes diminishing many environmental risks to the continent. Areas affected by droughts include nearly every area in Africa, and six consecutive rainy seasons with no rain have been devastating. The world recognizes the importance of the crisis, and many countries have committed significant resources to the fight.

Aid Efforts

In May of 2023, the United States, in partnership with Germany and the United Kingdom, announced a combined $869 million in humanitarian aid for the Horn of Africa. The Netherlands has committed another $92 million, and the funding will support efforts to combat extreme weather patterns while illuminating the severity of these climatic events. The U.S. has now committed $1.4 billion in assistance for recovery and prevention.

The drought in the Horn of Africa put 37 million people at risk, and NGOs worldwide moved quickly to help as many people as possible. As of March 2023, USAID provided cash transfers so residents could purchase food from local markets where it was available. Alongside the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, it supported the WASH program that aims to prevent the outbreak of diseases, like acute malnutrition, by rehabilitating conflict-affected water systems. WASH made it possible to provide clean drinking water to 3 million people in March 2023 alone. 

UNICEF was on the ground distributing what it calls Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, a highly effective treatment in combating acute malnutrition. UNICEF has the world’s largest stockpile and utilizes it, providing aid to 1.5 million at-risk children. The World Food Programme responded to Ethiopia by providing food assistance to 3.3 million people and another 2.4 million in Somalia; other efforts included education on sustainable water management and well-building.

Home Grown SolutionsDrought

Africa accounts for nearly 44% of severe droughts recorded in the last 100 years. Billions are lost in economic resources, and the human suffering is unmeasurable. The importance of humanitarian aid cannot be understated in Africa, but many ways to mitigate climate change-related incidents, like droughts, can be found within its borders.

Kenya is investing in community water sources to lessen its dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Zimbabwe is looking for ways to improve its food security by incorporating drought-tolerant varieties of maize. This change is crucial as 3.8 million people in rural areas face food insecurity. In the Horn of Africa sits Ethiopia, which has launched a program that helps poor communities by working toward becoming food self-sufficient, meaning struggling communities can develop the ability to produce enough food for their needs.

The Great Green Wall Initiative is the most ambitious plan to tackle climate change. With eleven countries involved, the TGGWI was put into motion in 2007 and is designed to fight desertification by planting millions of trees from the west coast of Senegal across the country to Ethiopia in the east, creating a giant green wall beneath the Sahara Desert. Ethiopia has seen success with the program as 37 million acres of degraded land have been restored, with more to come.

Africa is geographically located in a region prone to intense temperatures, and extreme weather patterns affect the African continent more than any other. Failed rainy seasons are piling up, but international aid, including education on sustainable water methods, has helped alleviate climate-related effects. Africa’s people have proven time and again they are resilient and have proven that once again by generating ways to mitigate extreme weather patterns, thereby mitigating drought. 

– Benett Crim
Photo: Flickr

Drought-stricken regionsIn drought-stricken regions in much of Western and Central Africa, the risk of catastrophic floods poses a consequential threat to lives and livelihoods, exacerbating poverty. In 2022, regions in this area experienced flooding disasters that altered human life, property, livestock and land. Across 18 countries, floods resulted in 1,567 deaths, 4,401 people injured, 3.2 million displacements and 517,000 houses destroyed. As the vulnerability of these areas is further intensified by the impacts of mother nature, it becomes crucial to implement proactive measures aimed at preventing and mitigating the destructive effects of flooding. These five data-backed strategies play a pivotal role in preserving communities and fostering sustainable development within these regions.

Five Strategies for Drought-Stricken Regions in Western and Central Africa

  1. Sustainable Water Management. Implementing sustainable water management practices is vital for mitigating the risk of floods in drought-prone regions of Africa. According to a study by the World Resources Institute, investing in water infrastructure can reduce the likelihood of floods from 33% to 10% in endangered and exposed areas. This will generate considerable cost savings. When successfully managing water resources, such as regulating water release during heavy rainfall events, it is possible to reduce the intensity and impact of flooding.
  2. Reforestation and Ecosystem Restoration. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reforestation is the best method to improve ecosystems in drought-stricken areas. Research proves that forests reduce flood risks and prevent droughts. The United Nations (U.N.) Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) aims to fight the root causes of drought and desertification while simultaneously laying the foundation for a better future. In 2007, the UNCCD launched the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI), planting an 8,000-kilometer stretch of trees from Senegal to Djibouti. This benefited more than 20 countries. Numerous organizations have partnered with UNCCD in the hopes that this initiative will improve food security, aid in restoring land and ecosystems and generate agricultural development. Additionally, the GGWI aims to employ 10 million people by 2030. Thus, reforestation not only reinvigorates the ecosystem but provides jobs to millions in Western and Central Africa. These results aid in poverty reduction within drought-stricken areas.
  3. Recognizing Early Warning Systems and Preparedness Measures. Advancing and implementing vigorous early warning systems is significant for flood prevention and preparedness. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), countries with productive early warning systems have witnessed a decline in flood-related deaths decade by decade. Notably, flood-related deaths decreased from more than “50,000 deaths on average per year in the 1970s to less than 20,000 in the 2010s. The 1970s and 1980s reported an average of 170 related deaths per day. In the 1990s, that average fell by one-third to 90 related deaths per day, then continued to fall in the 2010s to 40 related deaths per day,”  the WMO notes. This clear reduction in mortality emphasizes the life-saving potential of timely warnings and preparedness measures.
  4. Infrastructure Development. Investing in robust and flexible infrastructure is essential for flood risk reduction in drought-affected regions. Assembling flood-resistant buildings, refining drainage systems and implementing effective flood control measures are primary elements of infrastructure development. By incorporating these considerations, countries can minimize the impact of floods. This ensures the safety and prosperity of communities in drought-stricken regions located in Central and Western Africa.
  5. Community Education and Capacity Building. The U.N. defines capacity building as, “The process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt and thrive in a fast-changing world.” Education and capacity building are vital for amplifying community resilience. The U.N. Office of Disaster Risk Reduction explains that investing in community-based disaster risk reduction programs results in a significant return on investment. For every $1 spent, up to $15 is saved on disaster relief efforts. This impressive rate of return demonstrates the long-term benefits of equipping communities to effectively counter floods and reduce their vulnerability.

Looking Ahead

By embracing these comprehensive strategies, drought-stricken regions in Western and Central Africa can preemptively address the threat of devastating floods. This indirectly prevents the worsening of poverty. Collaboration among governments, international organizations and local communities is required to administer these measures effectively and ensure long-term sustainable development within these regions.

– Nathaniel Scandore
Photo: Flickr

Terror Reign in Somalia
Al-Shabaab is an insurgent and militant group based mainly in Somalia. It has close relations with Al-Qaeda. For more than a decade now, al-Shabaab and the Somali government have been fighting in the Somali Civil War. Al-Shabaab’s terror reign in Somalia needs to end by combatting the economic instability and poverty that allow it to continue.

Al-Shabaab’s Origin

Al-Shabaab emerged in 2006 as a splinter group of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that had taken control of Mogadishu and de facto control of Somalia from the Somalia government. In response, the Somali government backed an Ethiopian invasion that defeated the ICU. The Somali people’s resentment of the Ethiopian invasion and the ICU defeat led to an opening for al-Shabaab and its terror reign in Somalia.

By 2008, al-Shabaab took control of southern Somalia and gained dominance by seizing multiple territories throughout the country. In 2012, al-Shabaab officially aligned itself with Al-Qaeda and became Al-Qaeda’s representative in East Africa.

Poverty Leads to Recruitment and Abduction

A lack of economic stability drives terrorism in Somalia. Al-Shabaab capitalizes on the fact that poverty, unfortunately, aids the recruitment of militant groups. Since about 67% of Somali youth are unemployed, many young men join militant and insurgent groups like al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab provides a monthly salary that exceeds the average Somali per capita annual income of  $400. Teenagers that are 14 years old and younger are al-Shabaab recruits. In fact, 70% of al-Shabaab’s recruits are under the age of 24 and the median age for recruits is 17.

In addition to this, children between the ages of nine to 15 have been forcibly recruited into al-Shabaab. Since 2017, al-Shabaab has abducted children, predominantly from pastoral and rural areas, to be frontline fighters. Al-Shabaab also forced Islamic teachers and elders in Somalia to recruit children from school and arm them with military-grade weapons.

Famine and Drought Displacement Led to Al-Shabaab’s Recruitment

The Somali government’s lack of response to famine and drought has also allowed al-Shabaab to exploit poverty in Somalia. In May 2022, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that the 2.97 million Somalis displaced due to drought, violence and food shortages led to extreme overcrowding in refugee camps. Refugee camps are often used as hunting and recruiting grounds for terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab since they are remote and far away from authorities like police officers.

Support from the United States and the International Rescue Committee (IRC)

After President Trump withdrew all military support from Somalia, in May 2022, President Biden redeployed special forces into the country to help assist the Somali government in its war against al-Shabaab. He also approved a Pentagon request to target specific al-Shabaab leaders as part of the counterterrorism strategy.

In addition to the renewed United States support in the fight against Al-Shabaab’s reign of terror, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one organization that is currently helping Somalis get back on their feet economically from the effects of war, drought and food shortages. Since 1981, Somalia’s been receiving aid from the IRC which supports 280,000 Somalis annually.

Since drought is a huge issue, the IRC launched the Building Resilient Communities in Somalia to help educate families about disaster preparedness and financial resilience. These IRC programs mainly target female-led households so that females can learn how to build financial resilience during catastrophes, especially droughts. More than 1,400 Somali families received emergency cash for basic needs from the IRC. The organization has also provided business start-up grants and entrepreneurship training.

Looking Ahead

If Somalia cannot resolve its economic instability, al-Shabaab probably cannot be successfully defeated. Severe poverty is one of the primary reasons why so many young men join al-Shabaab. Joining an insurgent group should never have to be in any child’s future. Children in Somalia deserve better. They deserve a stronger and safer future where al-Shabaab no longer exists and economic instability is no longer a problem for their nation. The support from the U.S. and the IRC should help put Somalia in a better position to combat both poverty and al-Shabaab’s terror reign.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Flickr

Drought in AfricaThe Horn of Africa is suffering from its worst drought in 40 years, a crisis that has killed millions of livestock and plunged millions of people into food insecurity. In response to this historic drought in Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged almost $1.3 billion in assistance to the regions hardest hit by the drought.

A Record-Breaking Drought

The past four rainy seasons in the Horn of Africa—a region which includes Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya—have seen below-average rainfall. The most recent rainy season, from March to May 2022, was the area’s driest rainy season in 70 years. The U.N. expects that the upcoming rainy season from October to December 2022 will also be dry.

This unprecedented drought has had dire consequences for those living in the Horn of Africa:

  • As of July 2022, the U.N. estimated that 18.6 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are facing food insecurity due to the drought and this figure could rise to 20 million by September.
  • The International Rescue Committee warns that 3 million people are at risk of starving to death in the region.
  • 7.1 million children are acutely malnourished, with 2.1 million children falling in the category of acutely malnourished.
  • More than 11.6 million people lack access to sufficient water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.
  • An estimated 7 million livestock have died and an additional at 22 million are at risk of dying due to the drought.

Immediate Impacts of the Drought

In addition to the immediate impacts on food and water insecurity, the Horn of Africa’s drought has impacted the lives of those living there in more indirect ways. With more than 1.1 million people displaced as a consequence of the drought and women and girls traveling as much as three times as long as they did before to find water, the Horn of Africa has seen an increase in gender-based violence and school drop-out rates.

Approximately 15 million children in the region are now out of school and an additional 3.32 million children across the region are at risk of dropping out because of the drought. The drought has also had negative impacts on hygiene practices. As drinking water has become scarcer, people have started to ration their water, using more water for drinking and cooking and less for hygiene. Consequently, the drought has put people at a higher risk for infection and water-borne diseases.

While the drought on its own has had disastrous effects, Russia’s war on Ukraine has compounded the crisis the Horn of Africa is experiencing. Regionally, 84% of wheat is imported, and 90% of that imported wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine. Due to the combined effects of smaller harvests and war-induced inflation, the cost of food has risen 66% in Ethiopia and 36% in Somalia.

The United States Offers Help

In July 2022, USAID announced an additional $1.18 billion in aid for countries hardest hit by this historic drought. This brings the total U.S. assistance for the crisis up to $1.86 billion in 2022 alone — the greatest contribution of any single country.

The most recent round of funding will go towards measures that will provide immediate assistance to those suffering the consequences of the drought as well as efforts to help the Horn of Africa build resistance against potential future droughts. Funding will support the delivery of emergency food supplies including a grain called shogun, split peas and vegetable oil. To help the high number of children suffering from malnutrition as a result of the drought, USAID will help screen communities for malnutrition in children and provide nutritional supplements for those found to be most at risk.

USAID also plans to use a portion of the funds to help farmers by providing medical services and food to animals as well as working with agricultural communities to develop more drought-resistant farming techniques. Addressing some of the secondary consequences of the drought, USAID will also direct funds toward disease prevention and gender-based violence reduction efforts.

A Look Ahead

While this unprecedented drought has been devastating for the Horn of Africa, the U.N. estimated in July that an additional $1.8 billion in aid was required to address the crisis. The recent announcement by USAID in July covers almost two-thirds of this requirement and has the potential to help the millions who have suffered the dire consequences of the drought in Africa.

Anna Inghram
Photo: Flickr