Concurrent Crises in the Horn of Africa

Kurtzer, J., Abdullah, H. F. and Ballard, S.
Publication language
Date published
01 Jun 2022
Research, reports and studies
Disaster preparedness, resilience and risk reduction, Drought, Food security, Learning and evaluation of similar crises
Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya

The greater Horn of Africa, stretching from southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya and Somalia, is experiencing its worst drought in four decades. A fourth consecutive failed rainy season caused by the La Niña weather phenomenon has generated extreme drought conditions that have curtailed agricultural production, destroyed crops, and killed more than 3 million livestock, threatening the livelihoods and lives of millions of farmers and pastoralists. Across the region, more than 20 million people currently face starvation, and nearly 6 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. The number of individuals impacted by acute food insecurity will likely increase to over 25 million by mid-2022, hitting conflict-affected Ethiopia and Somalia the hardest, potentially leading to widespread malnutrition and starvation.

Droughts in the region are not new, but they are becoming more frequent and severe, resulting in longer-term impacts. Climate models forecast the upcoming October–December rains to underperform, meaning the region will likely see an unprecedented five-season drought. Rangelands are unable to recover from increasing drought cycles and pastoralist livelihoods may no longer be viable in many areas. The current drought is the latest of many crises afflicting the Horn, including the Covid-19 pandemic, devastating floods, and locust outbreaks.

The Horn is also one of the most conflict-affected regions of the world. Each country in the Horn has experienced some measure of political strife for decades. Conflict and violence have compounded the effects of climatic shocks on affected populations by creating additional needs and barriers for international humanitarian organizations and frontline local actors. Women and girls are bearing the brunt of these concurrent crises due to prevailing gender inequalities, which hinder their participation in decision-making mechanisms and humanitarian response and recovery efforts, undermining the integration of local actors in humanitarian action.

While resilience-building efforts have made some progress in mitigating impacts from drought, they are not yet scaled to the overwhelming need. The combined effects of the climatic and political crises necessitate both an emergency humanitarian response and the implementation of long-term climate adaptation and resilience strategies.