UN: Drought causes large-scale loss of life in Horn of Africa

The tents of people displaced by drought are seen at the Higlo camp for the internally-displaced in the Shabelle Zone of the Somali region of Ethiopia Monday, April 11, 2022. (ZERIHUN SEWUNET / UNICEF VIA AP)

ADDIS ABABA – More funding is immediately required to curb a rising large-scale loss of life across the Horn of Africa as the region faces severe drought in its recent history, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has warned.

"The threat of large-scale loss of life is rising each day and more funding is immediately required to enable humanitarian partners to respond at-scale to this once-in-a-generation crisis," the UNOCHA said in its latest situation update issued late Monday.

According to the UNOCHA, the Horn of Africa is experiencing one of its most severe droughts in recent history, with more than 15 million people acutely food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

"Families are taking desperate measures to survive, with thousands leaving their homes in search of food, water and pasture," it said.

According to the UNOCHA, the Horn of Africa is experiencing one of its most severe droughts in recent history, with more than 15 million people acutely food insecure in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia

The risks faced by women and girls, including gender-based violence and death during childbirth, have risen sharply since the drought began.

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The latest forecasts by the UNOCHA indicate that the March to May 2022 rainy season is likely to be average to below average. This comes after the October-December 2020, March-May 2021 and October-December 2021 seasons were all marred by below-average rainfall, leaving large swathes of Somalia, southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, and northern and eastern Kenya facing exceptional drought.

"If the March-May (2022) rains fail, this would be the first time in the last 40 years that the region has endured four consecutive below-normal seasons," the UNOCHA warned.

According to the UNOCHA, between 5.5 million and 6.5 million people in Ethiopia and some 3.5 million people in Kenya are severely food insecure due to the drought.  Nearly 6 million people in Somalia are acutely food insecure, including 81,000 people in catastrophe, which is higher than during the 2011 famine and the 2016/2017 severe drought.

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Millions of livestock, which pastoralist families rely upon for sustenance and livelihoods, are emaciated or dead, including more than 1.5 million animals that have died in Kenya, and over 1.5 million livestock that have died in Ethiopia's Somali, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People (SNNP) regions, according to the UNOCHA.