A large-scale, climate-induced, humanitarian crisis has unfolded in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia where 6.8 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The IFRC is launching this Hunger Crisis Appeal to mobilize resources for the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) to scale up its humanitarian assistance and early recovery support in communities most affected by the hunger crisis in Southern Ethiopia, assisting communities to adapt to evolving environmental conditions, in line with IFRC’s Pan Africa Zero Hunger Initiative.
HORN OF AFRICA
Across the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia), millions of households now face the effects of multiple concurrent shocks including aggravated food insecurity. Millions of men, women and children are facing hunger and malnutrition.
People are missing meals, parents are going without food for the sake of their children, and families are struggling to find enough water to keep their livestock alive. There is serious concern that another failed rainy season will bring further devastation to the lives of people who have already endured multiple climate disasters.
As of March 2022, 13.3 million people were severely food insecure in the Horn of Africa, and acute malnutrition rates have increased considerably, affecting 5.5 million children.
Intertwined with drought, southern and southeastern Ethiopia, and the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) regions of Kenya and Somalia, have been affected by three exceptionally wet seasons, bringing widespread floods, displacement, and a locust outbreak that was the worst in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia, and in 75 years in Kenya. This exceptional series of consecutive drought and flood shocks is having devastating impacts on agriculture, rangelands, and water resources, leading to a sharp decrease in food availability and access due to concerning food production shortages, increases in staple food and water prices, and erosion of livelihoods, which in turn are driving an upsurge in food insecurity and malnutrition.
In East Africa, food prices have for many months been rising in drought-affected areas, due to a combination of macro-economic challenges and below-average harvests, leaving families unable to afford even basic items. In addition to the preexisting shocks, the crisis in Ukraine will mean disrupted supply chains of wheat to the Horn of Africa – a region highly dependent on imports from Russia and Ukraine – and even higher prices, which could have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for people who are already facing acute hunger.
While the large humanitarian needs are clearly visible and must be addressed through emergency life-saving humanitarian support in the shortest time possible, there is a recognition that their drivers are deeply rooted in a larger climate-induced hunger crisis that requires a holistic and coordinated approach. Sustainable livelihoods are rural people’s best asset against hunger and malnutrition. Building more resilient livelihoods is one of the most powerful means to mitigate and prevent food security crises. Food security, nutrition and livelihoods sustainable interventions can save lives, mitigate gender inequalities, strengthen resilience in disaster and conflict situations, and can contribute to generating peace dividends and sustaining peace.
IN SOUTHERN ETHIOPIA, AN ESTIMATED 6.8 MILLION PEOPLE ARE CURRENTLY IN NEED OF FOOD ASSISTANCE
Through May 2022, it is projected that 6.82 million people in southern and south-eastern Ethiopia will likely face high levels of food insecurity (in line with IPC Phase 3 and above) because of the ongoing drought. The hardest-hit regions are in the south of the country: Somali, South Oromia, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP), where people have barely managed to recover from the severe drought in 2017, only to have to endure once again harsh conditions, the first signs of which started appearing towards the end of 2020 and continued to worsen with successive failed rain seasons in 2021.
Household food security is now extremely constrained, as food production has dropped considerably, and staple food prices remain above average. Water reserves are completely or nearly depleted in most drought-affected areas, which makes access to water for household consumption extremely expensive, with a 60% increase or greater reported in agro-pastoral livelihood zones. It is nearly impossible to maintain livestock under these conditions, resulting in increased livestock deaths. Livestock herders and their families must now trek long distances in search of water and appropriate rangelands, which heightens the potential of resource-induced conflict. Households are also now increasingly having to practice food-consumptionbased coping strategies, such as reducing the number of daily meals, eating less preferred foods, limiting adult intake to prioritize children, borrowing food from friends and relatives, and livestock sales at much lower prices. Survival coping mechanisms such as child labour, school dropout, and early marriage, are also increasing.
The Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), the IFRC, and Red Cross Red Crescent Partner National Societies carried out a joint assessment in the most hard-hit areas in February 2022, and the findings in the report reflect the severity of the situation. There were 260,000 livestock deaths reported by January 2022 and over two million more are at risk. Child malnutrition is currently at 19%, while 32% of pregnant and lactating women are suffering some form of malnutrition, an upward trend since November 2021.
More than 3.15 million people also face water shortages, and in the Somali region alone, 2.28 million people need emergency water assistance. In some communities, people are forced to walk for up to 12 hours each day in search of water, with reports of women fainting on the way due to fatigue and lack of water and food. Lack of water treatment was also observed in 60% of households, while hygiene and overall sanitation are seriously compromised, leading to localized disease outbreaks. In some woredas, the drought is to the extent that every resident has lost 90% of their cattle due to lack of fodder, lack of water, and increased incidence of animal diseases. In the Guji zone alone, food production losses were at 79%, while in Boreda and Dawa zones, a household survey showed that 86% of the population was forced to skip meals or reduce meal size, while 84% expressed concern over the lack of income for food and increased prices.
Children's education has also been disrupted due to the lack of water in schools and the halt of school feeding programmes. Children and adolescents are also taking charge of searching for food and water, which exposes them to many protection risks.
If decisive action is not taken there will be a steady increase in food insecurity, malnutrition levels, and related opportunistic diseases, as well as increased exposure to epidemics.