Horn of Africa: drought update

Somalia’s Gu, the typical rainy season between April and June, and even the recent August rainfall of between 11mm – 199mm, brought very little relief for this drought-striken country in the Horn of Africa.  The country and its inhabitants are particularly worried as the Gu season accounts for up to six months of cereal supply for the country.  But with the Somalian rainy season staying dry, aid organisations are predicting that 3.4 million fragile Somalis will be in dire need of food and other supplies for at least another six months.  The country’s main ports are critical for Somalis.  Not only is aid received via the country’s ports, but authorities can increase food imports which also lowers commodity prices.   But a battle of a different kind is being fought along Somali’s coast and harbour cities as militant groups fight for national control.  Peaceful living in Somalia has been an unknown situation since 1991 and relief agencies are increasingly prevented from delivering aid to needy communities.


The statistics for the recent Horn of Africa drought is dreadful – the estimated death toll is between 50,000 and 100,000.  Sadly, more than half of this figure was children under the fragile age of five.  A further 13 million people needed humanitarian assistance to survive the onset of the drought.  In 2011, the drought was described as Africa’s worst drought of the past six decades and in Somalia, an official state of famine was declared. And yet it is still far from over…and with climate change predictions for the near future, there is even less hope for an improved Horn of Africa.

Environmental & political refugees

Forced to flee from their country, Somalis left in thousands during the drought climax in mid-2011.  This left neighbouring Kenya with an extra 160,000 environmental refugees.  Sheltered in Dabaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, some basic daily needs are met, however, Dabaab is now running out of resources to support its 465,000 refugees.  Various aid organisations are acknowledging, despite the desperate need for basic resources, that continued aid is not a solution to the distressed situation particularly as the camp continues to expand due to civil unrest and conflict threatening the lives of ordinary civilians.  Parts of Dabaab are now affected by a cholera outbreak.  This highly contagious disease is stretching medical staff and resources to control the outbreak.

Emergency situation continues

There is slightly good news in that official state of famine is no longer declared for Somali, but an emergency situation continues.  It is however expected that the drought will continue well into 2013 as the next upcoming Gu can only be expected from April 2013 onwards.

Aid organisations such as the International Rescue Committee continue to work uninterrupted to firstly save lives but also to re-establish displaced communities.  IRC and other organisations are furthermore developing and implementing planning for the skills training, youth development and the empowerment of women to help the Horn of Africa’s communities cope with vulnerable situations.

Photo credits: some rights reserved by prozac1 via freedigitalphotos.net




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Filed under Environmental news: South Africa & Africa

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