A new United Nations report on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, has warned that twenty million people are at risk of starvation this year (2022) as delayed rains continue to worsen an already brutal drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
The extreme months-long drought has left the Horn of Africa on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, which is destroying crops and livestock and also forcing huge numbers of people to leave their homes in search of food and water.
As long-awaited rains failed to materialise nearly a month into the current rainy season, “the number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022,” the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) noted. The WFP further revealed that six million Somalis or 40 percent of the country’s population are facing extreme levels of food insecurity and there is “a very real risk of famine in the coming months” if current conditions prevailed.
In Kenya, about half a million people are on the brink of a hunger crisis, with communities in the North of the country, especially at risk due to their reliance on livestock. The number of Kenyans in need of assistance also rose more than fourfold in less than two years, the UN’s food agency, WFP noted. Meanwhile, malnutrition rates in drought-hit Southern and Southeastern Ethiopia surged above emergency thresholds, while the North of the country has been in the grip of a 17-month war between the Government Forces and Tigrayan rebels.
The dire conditions have been aggravated by the conflict in Ukraine, which the WFP report said has contributed to soaring food and fuel costs and disrupted global supply chains. The Agency warned that a lack of funding could trigger a catastrophe, as it is calling for $473 million (438 million euros) over the next six months. WFP revealed that the previous appeal in February 2022, managed to raise less than four percent of the cash needed.
Funding, a Major Requirement
Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for East Africa intimated that “We know from past experience that acting early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is vital, yet our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date”.
East Africa endured a harrowing drought in 2017 but early humanitarian action averted a famine in Somalia. In contrast, 260,000 people, half of them children under the age of six, died of hunger or hunger-related disorders when a famine struck the country in 2011. In the view of Experts, extreme weather events are happening with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change.