Drought in horn of africa
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Human Rights on the Brink of Tragedy Due to a Severe Drought in the Horn of Africa

Twenty Million People at Risk of Hunger in the Horn of Africa

Twenty million people are at risk of severe hunger due to a drought in the Horn of Africa. A climate-induced weather emergency has delayed rainfall. Four consecutive failed rainy seasons have led to the worst drought the Horn of Africa has witnessed in 40 years. Climate change has caused unimaginable suffering for local civilians. The Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula, is a large peninsula in East Africa. The image below depicts the acute food insecurity phases in the Horn of Africa. These figures are continuously deteriorating due to climate-induced drought.

Map showing food insecurity in Horn of Africa
Caption: The image showcases the acute food insecurity phases in the Horn of Africa due to the severe drought. Image obtained from the FEWS NET.

Worsening Humanitarian Situation & Mass Displacement

According to the World Food Programme, the price of food and fuel has dramatically risen. There is a shortage of humanitarian aid reaching the Horn of Africa. The Guardian released a recent survey which showed that only two in 10 people in the United Kingdom were aware that a drought was even occurring.

Ethiopia is battling the worst drought in almost half a century. In Ethiopia’s eastern and southern regions, seasonal rains have failed for the third time since the end of 2020. Consequently, the lack of rain has fuelled mass displacement and worsened an already harrowing humanitarian situation. In addition to this, 40% of the population in Somalia is at risk of starvation.

Climate Change Warnings Continuously Ignored by World Leaders

World leaders promised never to miss the warning signs for future disasters. In 2011, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti faced a devastating drought which resulted in a famine. Millions were unable to access food and water. However, in 2022, with many climate warnings from experts, we find Africa facing the same situation. The impacts of severe droughts in the Horn of Africa have caused many livestock to die due to unpredictable weather patterns resulting from climate change. It will be almost impossible to feed future generations based on diets and consumption patterns adopted by western Europe and North America today.

“Globally, we are facing a year of unprecedented needs as conflict, climate shocks and the rising costs of food and fuel leave millions in need of humanitarian assistance”

Michael Dunford, World Food Programme regional director for eastern Africa. 

The Level of Donor Funding is Woeful in Allieveting the Climate-Induced Drought

The Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbates the drought in the Horn of Africa. As the world’s attention is fixated on Ukraine, the African people struggle to access food and water. The level of donor funding to alleviate the drought in the Horn of Africa is woeful. The humanitarian appeals for Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya have reached over $4.4 billion. In Somalia, 7.7 million people require humanitarian assistance, but only 4% of Somalia’s appeal has been funded. The Ukrainian fundraising efforts stand in stark contrast as countries have been very generous in their contributions. The United Nations has released $100 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to help millions facing hunger in Africa. This aid is targeted toward South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.

The Horn of Africa Will Bear the Brunt of Climate Change

Africa only contributes to 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is profoundly unfair when we look at countries like China and the United States, who contribute to 43% of total global emissions. The Horn of Africa will bear the brunt of climate change and experience more frequent and severe droughts. Pastoralist families in the Horn of Africa rely on livestock as their primary food source. In Ethiopia, livestock deaths reached a staggering 1.4 million in 2022. Consequently, changing weather patterns and dry seasons significantly impact access to food and water in the region.

Furthermore, an additional 125 million African children will be subjected to water scarcity in the next two decades as a result of climate change. The leading causes of death in children in the Horn of Africa are malnutrition, acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria, and other water and vector-borne diseases. These causes thrive in climatic conditions making African children highly susceptible to climate change.

A herder in Ethiopia’s Somali region experiences the drought in the Horn of Africa. He stands amid dead livestock as a result of climate change.
Caption: A herder in Ethiopia’s Somali region experiences the drought in the Horn of Africa. He stands amid dead livestock as a result of climate change. Image obtained from The New Humanitarian.

Maternal and Newborn Health Threatened by Severe Drought

Additionally, climate-induced droughts are deepening gender inequalities across the Horn of Africa. The severe drought has put enormous pressure on healthcare systems. In Ethiopia, the progress made in reducing maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity is at significant risk.

“We noticed an increase in maternal and newborn deaths in the last months. Almost all our cases are women who have traveled up to 200 kilometres to reach the facility, many with labour complications and no transport”

Dr. Mahamed Sheh, Medical Director of the Gode General Hospital in Werder, Ethiopia.

There are 930,000 people in urgent need of emergency and reproductive health support in Somalia. It is estimated that 60% of the population of Somali is over an hour’s walk away from the nearest hospital. Civilians do not know if the facility is functioning or not if they manage to reach it in time.

We Must Strengthen Our Collective Effort in Alleviating Climate Change

Morally, socially and economically, climate change is one of the biggest threats to the Horn of Africa. We must tackle the underlying causes of world hunger and prepare developing countries for the shock waves that climate change will bring in the future.

Furthermore, although there is a lack of funding for the Horn of Africa, there are still ways of improving the current situation. Therefore, we must integrate early warning responses into humanitarian and development efforts to minimize the effect of climate change. Climate experts have warned us of what will happen, so now is the time to prepare.

Laura Shorten
Laura Shorten is an Irish human rights consultant and researcher based in the Netherlands. Laura qualified with an International Bachelor of Social Sciences degree from University College Dublin. She majored in politics, international relations and social policy. Laura graduated from Technological University Dublin with a Postgraduate Diploma in Law. In 2021, she graduated with an Advanced LL.M in International Children’s Rights at Leiden University. Laura specializes in international law, children’s human rights, political science, international relations, middle eastern studies, refugee/migration law, gender studies, strategic litigation and global diplomacy. Laura has published various articles pertaining to international law and human rights violations occuring worldwide. Laura defended her Advanced Master’s Thesis entitled “An Analysis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Legal Framework in Protecting Children’s Right to Health and Right to Life in the Face of Climate Change”. This thesis is published on the Leiden University website under the Advanced Master of Law Theses for children's rights. Laura has previously worked for UNICEF Ireland, campaigning for children worldwide who are facing discrimination and living in war zones. https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-shorten/

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