Following poor rainfall patterns in the Horn of Africa since 2019 along with changing climatic conditions, the region is facing a catastrophic drought, the worst experienced in 40 years. The drought is severely affecting millions of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and their host communities in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. With water sources drying up, livelihoods decimated, and rising prices, there is new displacement – both internal and across borders due to a mix of conflict and climate shocks – as well as drought specific impacts on existing refugee camps and settlements and host communities in all three countries.
These populations are already suffering a dramatic reduction in food assistance due to funding shortfalls coupled with the global economic crisis that has seen drastic increases in food and commodity prices. Over 3.5 million (75%) of the total refugee population in the wider region is affected by cuts to food assistance – including Ethiopia and Kenya, where refugees are only receiving 60% of a full ration. Meanwhile, the cost of a food basket has already risen by 66% cent in Ethiopia and by 36% cent in Somalia, leaving many refugees and IDP families unable to afford even basic items.
This has forced some of them to sell their hard-earned assets in exchange for food and other life-saving items. Globally, food prices are not only being impacted by the drought situation but also by the global macro-economic challenges, including the Ukraine crisis. Prices are predicted to further increase in the second half of 2022, with major implications for overall food access in the Horn of Africa region including for refugees and IDPs.
By June 2022, an estimated 18.4 million people are facing severe hunger, unprecedented food insecurity and water shortages. As a result, 7.1 million children in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia are estimated to be acutely malnourished. Assessment findings further indicate that harvests have failed, and millions of livestock are emaciated or dead.
The impact of the drought on water supply, food security, health, livelihoods and related protection concerns, underscores the need for UNHCR to urgently respond to both newly and existing displaced populations who are already starting to be unable to meet their basic needs. With food consumption gaps and malnutrition reaching Integrated Phase Classification - IPC Phase 4, there is already increased mortality, and urgent action is needed for all populations in areas at IPC Phase 3 and above.
UNHCR is appealing for $42,642,659 to respond to the immediate needs of 600,785 targeted refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, along with their host communities, and 942,575 targeted IDPs along with their host communities in Ethiopia and Somalia. Response activities will be carried out under the Refugee Coordination Model and as mandated in the cluster response mechanism for IDP situations. This appeal has been aligned with the country level interagency drought appeals as far as possible.
Immediate needs include provision of lifesaving services including nutrition, shelter, water and sanitation, healthcare, as well as responding to protection impacts in refugee and IDP settlements. Multi-purpose cash-based assistance will be used to address needs where relevant and feasible. Strengthening of joint border monitoring initiatives with governmental authorities will aim to ensure that entry points are facilitating life-saving initial assistance for new refugees and passage to the nearest reception centers is accessible.
While other countries in the region are also impacted by drought and additional climactic shocks such as flooding, the geographic scope of this appeal is limited to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. This is due to the severity of the drought in the three countries and its impact on displaced populations. The geographical scope is also in line with the prioritization agreed by UN agencies at regional level.
In September and October 2021 respectively, the Governments of Kenya and Somalia declared national emergencies.
In Ethiopia, the Federal Government tasked regional authorities to activate their emergency response mechanisms.
Humanitarian teams in the three countries also launched joint drought preparedness and response plans to address urgent lifesaving needs, of which UNHCR is fully taking part in Somalia and Ethiopia, with increasing alignment in Kenya.
Figures from the Ethiopia Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2022 indicated that over 6.8 million people needed to be prioritized for drought-related humanitarian assistance. This figure has since increased to 8.1 million following assessments by the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group in April 2022.
The three regional states most affected by the drought in Ethiopia are Somali (six zones; 3.5 million people), Oromia (four zones; 3.4 million people), and one zone in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) (1.1 million people), with the lowland areas of southern and eastern Oromia and Somali regions being the most heavily impacted.
Recent reports by UNICEF also indicate that water shortages will continue to be on the rise in these drought-affected areas given low projections for rain in coming months, the number of children suffering from severe malnutrition could reach 900,000, and up to 235,000 pregnant and lactating women are projected to require life-saving emergency nutrition services.
The worsening food security and nutrition situation is compounded by the recent reduction of food assistance to refugees in Ethiopia to only 60% of a full ration due to funding shortfalls.
The drought is also affecting vulnerable livestock-reliant livelihoods. As of May 2022, over 2.5 million deaths of livestock were reported with an additional two million facing serious risks in the drought-affected areas.
Within the drought affected regions, there are 303,500 internally displaced people that UNHCR is prioritizing for immediate response. As of May 2022, over 286,000 people (183,000 in Somali and 103,000 in Oromia regions) have been displaced due to the drought as well as existing IDPs who are also affected.
The Government’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS), UNHCR and partners have continued to receive asylumseekers arriving from the equally drought-stricken Somalia. By May 2022, nearly 16,000 new arrivals have been registered in the Dollo Addo reception center, with some 5,000 having arrived towards the end of 2021 and 11,000 since the start of 2022. Arriving families have cited conflicts related to competition for resources as among the reasons for fleeing.
A protection analysis conducted among refugees by UNHCR found that the drought is disproportionately affecting persons with specific needs. New protection risks are emerging as people travel long distances in search of water.
Affected populations are increasingly resorting to harmful coping mechanisms. The situation is also causing social tension and compromising community cohesion.
The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group has reported that in the Somali region, 29% of water boreholes and 34% of hand-dug wells are dry or with extremely low levels of water. This has resulted in a reliance by humanitarian agencies on expensive water trucking services for 2.3 million people in 85 woredas. Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) admission is the highest observed over the past 5 years in Oromia, Somali and SNNP regions. In Southern Ethiopia (solely due to drought), 5.5 – 6.5 million people are considered food insecure.
Out of the 47 counties in Kenya, the drought situation is affecting 23 counties in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) including Turkana and Garissa Counties which host 460,000 refugees. Assessments done in April found that up to 3.3 million people in these Counties needed urgent humanitarian assistance. The number was expected to increase to 3.5 million by June 2022 given that 17 of the Counties would most likely receive below average rains.
Some of the effects of the drought are related to affected counties registering extreme vegetation deficit effectively compromising livestock maintenance. Milk production is below average in the 16 counties while access to water has been hampered in nearly 65% of the ASAL Counties. The number of children that needed treatment for malnutrition reached 746,000 in February.
Some cross border movements from the drought-affected regions of Ethiopia and Somalia into Kenya have been reported. Within the affected regions of Kenya, inter-movement across counties in search of water and greener pastures has been noted. However long-term internal displacement, and cross-boundary movement from Kenya into Ethiopia or into Somalia is not projected.
According to May 2022 statistics from the National Drought Management Authority, the Turkana County in the ASALs, one of the counties in Kenya hosting refugees received a below average rainfall of 10.3mm during the April rainy season. This was 70% below the amounts recorded previously and is the worst in the last ten years.
While staple food production declined nationally by 5-10%, the impact of the drought is more severe in areas like Garissa County, which also hosts large numbers of refugees in the Dadaab camps. From 2020 to 2022, there have been four (4) consecutive poor rainy seasons. In Garissa County, rain levels are 60% below what is expected at this time of year, leading to reduced pasture for animals, failed harvests and severe water shortages. Many animals have died and those that survive are emaciated and in poor health. Livestock herders, women and girls are making long and dangerous journey in search of water.
Nutrition surveys conducted in Dadaab, Kakuma and Kalobeyei in 2021 established very high anaemia. In Dadaab, anaemia ranged between 47.8-55.6% against acceptable levels of below 40%. The survey in Kakuma detected an anaemia level of 56.6% which indicates a generally high micronutrient deficiency.
UNHCR’s ongoing profiling exercise in Dadaab and Kakuma/Kalobeyei refugee camps indicate drought, intercommunal conflicts, lack of access to basic services including food and education as factors influencing flight among the new arrivals. In 2022, the Government of Kenya has registered a total of 13,744 refugees and asylum-seekers mainly from South Sudan, as well as Somalia, Ethiopia, DRC and Burundi as at end of May 2022.
Dadaab has a total registered population of 233,888 as of 31 May 2022 and an estimated 37,000 who have not been registered in the last few years, including some 4,000 new arrivals from January 2022. About 30% of those profiled among the undocumented population indicated that the ongoing drought was a main factor in their flight from Somalia.
The Kenya Operation will provide support to new arrivals while continuing to support the existing refugee population in the camps equally affected by the drought in the Turkana and Garissa which are ASAL counties impacted by the drought. In Kakuma UNHCR will prioritize the response to the drought situation within Turkana County to a projected 25,000 new arrivals in 2022 and approximately 15,000 host community members who are in the vicinity of the camp/ settlement. In Dadaab camps, the response to the drought situation will reach projected 30,000 refugees and 40% of the 55,535-host community population in the surrounding catchment areas.
The humanitarian drought response in Somalia has already shifted to famine prevention and mitigation. This has been occasioned by increased food prices, an alarming rate of malnutrition and constraints related to humanitarian access.
About 90% of the country is experiencing severe drought conditions.
The number of people affected in the country rose from 4.9 million in March 2022 to about 6.1 million in April. Drought conditions are likely to worsen throughout the year as the recent short-term rain forecasts suggest below-average rain for 2022. It is further feared that Somalia could be heading towards a fourth consecutive year recording belowaverage rain.
Recent assessments show that more than 6 million people in the country are facing severe to near-complete food shortages. Among these, 1.7 million are at emergency IPC Phase 4 while over 81,000 people are facing Catastrophe/ Famine (IPC Phase 5). About 1.4 million children are facing acute malnutrition, with some 330,000 likely to be severely malnourished if they don’t get immediate treatment. Internally displaced persons urgently require shelter, food, water, and access to healthcare.
Disease outbreaks, including AWD/cholera, are on the rise. This is due to severe water shortages and lack of access to adequate hygiene and sanitation facilities, especially in internal displacement sites.
Loss of livelihoods, especially livestock, has been reported at a high rate due to the high number of livestock deaths.
Prices of commodities like food, fuel, water, and fodder have spiked. At the same time, resource-based conflicts over dwindling resources are likely to rise rapidly.
In the first five months of 2022, the UNHCR-led Protection and Return Monitoring Network (PRMN) recorded 805,000 persons newly internally displaced in Somalia. This is in addition to the 874,000 people already displaced in 2021.
Displacement since November 2021 has clearly outpaced the rate of displacement that occurred during the previous droughts in 2011-2012 and 2016-2017 during the same timeframe. In the month of May alone, 107,426 new internal displacements were recorded among which 33,404 were triggered by drought or lack of livelihood, while 74,000 are related to internal conflicts among other reasons. Based on this scenario, an estimated 1.4 million people may be displaced within the next 6 months.
At the end of May 2022, there were 33,111 refugees and asylum-seekers registered in Somalia, mainly from Ethiopia (17,838 asylum-seekers and 4,760 refugees), Yemen (9,095 refugees and asylum-seekers) and Syria (1,035 refugees and 99 asylum-seekers), and 284 persons of concerns from other countries. This population has also been severely affected by the drought, with high levels of malnutrition recorded. Water scarcity and the drying of vegetation have led to the death of livestock causing many refugees to lose their livelihoods.