After little to no rain since 2020, the Horn of Africa drought is plaguing several countries, causing displacement in Ethiopia. The UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have been working with local disaster prevention centers to provide food, water and shelter to the thousands who find themselves within the affected areas.
Horn of Africa Drought: Zero Rainfall
Ethiopia is experiencing one of the worst droughts that have occurred in the last 40 years. “We have never seen a drought like this, it has affected everyone, we have named it ‘the unseen,” said Ardo who lives in the Eastern Somali region of Ethiopia.
The UNHCR has been working with local communities impacted by the drought by providing water, shelter and clothing. The U.N. agency and other regional disaster management organizations assisted more than 7,000 drought-affected households. However, despite the humanitarian assistance, the needs of the communities are steadily growing. “The most pressing issue here is a lack of water, as well as effective water management,” said Abdullahi Sheik Barrie, a field associate in the UNHCR office in the capital of the Somali region.
Following the deterioration of water sources, livestock is dying which removes people’s ability to provide for themselves. While the drought is predicted to continue during the next couple of months, Shabia Mantoo, the UNHCR spokesperson announced the estimated cost to adequately address the crisis. “To deliver life-saving assistance and protection to some 1.5 million refugees, internally displaced people, and local host communities…UNHCR is appealing for $42.6 million,” said Mantoo during a press briefing.
USAID is also providing assistance to people in the Somali region. The agency has declared a $488 million budget for providing humanitarian aid to Ethiopia. USAID’s funding will cover, “food supplies, including sorghum, peas and vegetable oil.”
Although almost 1 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes in the hopes of finding food and water, humanitarian organizations claim that this number will continue to rise and there is an approaching risk of a fifth failed rainy season. As such, the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the drought affecting the Horn of Africa a grade three health emergency which is its highest rating. “We don’t know where the bottom is yet for this crisis…the fact is that we are in a devastating situation already and the likelihood is that it’s going to continue,” said Michael Dunford, the head of the WHO in Eastern Africa in an interview with the Telegraph.
Lives At Stake
Abdul Risac, mayor of a small city in the Somali region called Buaro, told the Telegraph that his communities have no other form of income and lack proper methods to deal with this drought. Selma, a 20-year-old mother of two who recently arrived at a displacement camp once had 100 goats and sheep but now has none. “We realized we couldn’t survive so we came to this place, ” she said to the Telegraph.
Selma also added that her family, like many others, can only return to their homes if they acquire livestock. “It’s my dream to return, but now we’re goatless and have no way of breeding more animals. It’s hard to know what our options are. All I know is being a pastoralist,” she concluded.
While the Horn of Africa drought is expected to persist, the UNHCR and USAID are providing their support in the form of life-saving funding for internally displaced persons in Ethiopia.
– Henry Hyman