U.S. Concern Grows for Drought-Stricken Horn of Africa

08/01/2011 20:34

Washington — The United States is concerned about high malnutrition rates in the Horn of Africa region, especially in southern and central Somalia and among the Somali refugee population, as the region faces one of the worst droughts on record, the U.S. State Department says.

“A large-scale multi-donor intervention is underway to prevent the further decline of an already dire situation, but there will be no quick fix,” the State Department said in a July 27 fact sheet.

“The U.S. is one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the region, providing approximately $459 million this fiscal year to help those in need,” the fact sheet said.

The United States is particularly concerned with the plight of more than 11.5 million people living primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. The Horn of Africa region has been engulfed in a drought and Somalia is among the hardest hit. An ongoing civil war in Somalia makes responding to the humanitarian and food security crisis difficult.

Humanitarian assistance from the United States is targeted at refugees, people displaced in their own countries and the larger drought-affected populations, the department said. The assistance also aims to build short-term and longer-term food security.

International aid and relief agencies have been reporting that the drought conditions they are finding are among the worst they’ve seen. The region has been affected by a severe and nearly unprecedented dry spell, political instability and higher global food prices.

“Because emergency assistance will not solve the underlying long-term problems in the region, the U.S. government is also working on comprehensive responses, such as through the President’s Feed the Future Initiative,” the fact sheet said. The Feed the Future Initiative helps address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

“By working with other donors and governments in the region, Feed the Future will increase overall agricultural production as well as increase the resiliency of pastoralists who suffer most acutely from the effects of the drought,” the fact sheet said.

Reports from inside Somalia indicate that the daily arrival of new refugees in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya could rise dramatically as the situation in Somalia worsens, the State Department fact sheet said. Approximately 3,200 new refugees are arriving daily from Somalia, news reports said.

The United States is providing about $69 million for refugee assistance in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. “Much of this assistance was previously planned for the region to meet continuing critical humanitarian needs,” the fact sheet said.

The United States is also providing approximately $44 million for health, nutrition, agriculture and food security, economic recovery and market systems, humanitarian coordination and information management, and water, sanitation and hygiene interventions in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

In June, the United States contributed about 19,000 metric tons of food aid to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) for Somalia. The food was drawn from already-in-place food stocks in the region. The United States is also providing an additional $21 million contribution to the WFP for assistance to Somalia and another $5 million to the WFP for refugees in Kenya. This brings the total to $69.6 million this year that the United States has provided in food assistance for the more than 211,000 refugees in Ethiopia and 507,000 in Kenya, the fact sheet said.

“Since September 2010, the U.S. government has provided $20 million to WFP in Kenya for the purchase of up to 37,000 metric tons of regionally-grown corn,” the fact sheet added.

Among the things that have worked effectively for decades to help the humanitarian community identify conditions in the region are the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning System and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, the fact sheet said. These systems have allowed the United States to alert other donors and to make sizable, early food aid contributions and scale up emergency programs to meet increasing regional needs.

On July 28, the U.N. refugee agency revised upward the amount of funds it requires to respond to the hunger crisis across the Horn of Africa. The agency has asked donors to provide an additional $8.6 million on top of the $136.3 million already requested. And the World Food Programme said it has received pledges of more than $250 million in recent days from Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, Monaco, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as from the U.N. Central Emergency Fund.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on July 25 that in addition to the delivery of emergency aid to the Horn of Africa for those facing drought-related hunger, relief efforts must be accompanied by longer-term efforts to increase and improve food security across the region.

“Short-term relief must be linked to building long-term sustainability,” Ban said in a message sent to delegates at a U.N.-convened emergency conference in Rome. “This means an agricultural transformation that improves the resilience of rural livelihoods and minimizes the scale of any future crisis.”




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