Sub-Saharan Africa Threatened by Multiple Humanitarian Crises |

Sounding the alert, the WFP said the figure rose to 43 million when the Central African Republic was included in the food insecurity estimate.

And the problem is not limited to rural areas as 16 million people living in urban spaces are also at risk of acute food insecurity, with the WFP warning that some six million children are undernourished in the Sahel.

Unprecedented food crisis

From conflict and displacement to climate shocks and inflation – all compounded by the Ukraine crisis – there are many reasons for the unprecedented food emergency in the Sahel and West Africa region.

According to the WFP, since Russia invaded Ukraine, prices have jumped 30-50% in many places – and even doubled in some markets.

After drought caused low yields last year, farmers are already deeply concerned about the upcoming harvest.

The WFP has warned that they lack food to meet their needs and amid escalating conflicts, more than six million people have been forced from their homes in the Sahel.

To provide lifesaving assistance over the next six months, WFP urgently needs US$777 million.

Horn of Africa

At the same time, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has warned that worst drought in decades threatens around 15 million people in the Horn of Africa.

Parched landscapes, worsening food insecurity and increasingly widespread displacement have prompted IOM to call for “an urgent and effective humanitarian response” to avert large-scale deterioration across the region.

Around three, five and seven million people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, respectively, are at risk of a humanitarian crisis due to the unprecedented impacts of several failed rainy seasons.

The battered region has already been hit by cumulative shocks including conflict, extreme weather, climate change, locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Livelihoods are drying up

Although the Horn of Africa has experienced climate-induced crises for decades, the current drought in arid and semi-arid lands has been particularly severe.

The risk of starvation and malnutrition is high as the food security situation deteriorates rapidly,according to the IOM.

As pastures and water points dry up across the region, pastoral and rural communities are witnessing the death of livestock and the loss of their livelihoods.

Thousands of hectares of crops were destroyed and in Kenya alone 1.4 million animals died in the latter part of last year due to drought.

Tens of thousands of families are forced to leave their homes in search of food, water and pasture.

This increases pressure on already limited natural resources, increasing the risk of inter-communal conflict, as farming and pastoral communities compete for dwindling water supplies.

© UNICEF/Sebastian Rich

A man with his children fetching water from the dry Dollow River, Somalia.

Drought-induced displacement

In Somalia, where parts of the country are experiencing the worst water shortage in 40 years, the government declared a state of emergency last November.

According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix analysis, drought conditions could imminently displace more than one million Somalis – in addition to the 2.9 million already displaced.

Based on previous drought displacement patterns there, affected populations are likely to move from rural to urban centers, overwhelming essential services, including health facilities, which may trigger further major health issues.

IOM flow monitoring has recorded an increase in drought-induced movements from Somalia to Ethiopia, possibly to access water and pasture.

However, Ethiopia is also suffering from the disastrous consequences of drought, which has eroded the livelihoods of at least four million pastoral and agro-pastoral communities.

Drought conditions could imminently displace more than a million Somalis – IOM

Requires higher abilities

To prevent a humanitarian disaster, IOM is working closely with governments, UN agencies and other partners in each country to meet the acute water needs of displaced people, migrants and vulnerable groups.

Through its operational footprint, local partnerships in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, and a rapid response fund mechanism in Ethiopia, IOM is well placed to respond to drought-affected populations across the region.

Despite IOM’s active response, limited resources push needs to exceed capabilities.

“Additional funds are urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods, mitigate further displacement and avert greater needs in the future,” the UN agency said.

The immediate needs require large-scale emergency humanitarian assistance, including food, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); non-food items; and conflict management interventions.

In the longer term, the global climate crisis has underscored the need to collectively increase disaster preparedness and climate adaptation.

This must include taking into account the structural development needs of vulnerable populations and prioritizing inclusive access to natural resources.

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