April 19, 2022: Desperately needed rains across the Horn of Africa have so far failed to materialise, almost a month into the current rainy season, and if these conditions continue, along with stagnant and even decreasing humanitarian aid, the number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.
With Somalia facing the risk of famine, half a million Kenyans one step away from catastrophic levels of hunger and malnutrition rates in Ethiopia well above emergency thresholds, time is fast running out for families who are struggling to survive.
“We know from past experience that acting early to avert a humanitarian catastrophe is vital, yet our ability to launch the response has been limited due to a lack of funding to date,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa. “WFP and other humanitarian agencies have been warning the international community since last year that this drought could be disastrous if we didn’t act immediately, but funding has failed to materialise at the scale required.”
The situation has been compounded by the fallout of conflict in Ukraine, with the cost of food and fuel soaring to unprecedented highs. Drought-affected countries across the Horn of Africa are likely to be the hardest hit by impacts of the conflict - the cost of a food basket has already risen, particularly in Ethiopia (66 percent) and Somalia (36 percent) which depend heavily on wheat from Black Sea basin countries, and the disruption in imports further threatens food security. Shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January 2022.
During the 2016/17 drought in the Horn of Africa, catastrophe was avoided through early action. Humanitarian assistance was scaled up before there was widespread hunger; saving lives and averting a devastating famine. In 2022, due to a severe lack of resourcing, there are growing fears that it won’t be possible to prevent the looming disaster – and millions will suffer as a result.
WFP last appealed for desperately needed funding in February yet less than 4 percent of what was needed was raised. Over the next six months, WFP needs US$473 million to scale-up assistance and save lives across the three countries – Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.