Millions face drought, famine and climate change on the Eastern Horn of Africa

• July 5, 2011
A young refugee in Dadaab, Kenya | Photo Credit: CARE Canada, All Rights Reserved

A young refugee in Dadaab, Kenya | Photo Credit: CARE Canada, All Rights Reserved

Right now in the Eastern Horn of Africa, more than ten million people are struggling through the worst drought in six decades. Many countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti stand on the brink of famine, and there is little or no likelihood of improvement until 2012. Coupled with rising food and fuel prices, thousands of people are left with no choice but to flee their homes for tent cities managed by humanitarian aid agencies.

We should not underestimate the urgency and scope of this crisis. In Mandera, Kenya, the price of maize has increased 60% from this time last year. Women in Moyale, Ethiopia are walking two hours each way to reach a source of water for their families. Before the drought, this trip would have taken 15 minutes. Every day more than 1,500 Somali refugees stream into the refugee settlements of Dadaab in northern Kenya, many arriving with little more than the clothes on their backs. Dadaab, a camp designed to house 90,000 refugees at maximum, is currently home to 367,000 people. It is the largest refugee camp in the world, and the third largest population centre in Kenya.

A cyclical problem, compounded by climate change

Droughts are not uncommon in Africa, but this one is particularly significant as it comes so soon after the devastatingly dry years of 2008 & 2009. According to Gary McGurk, Assistant Country Director for CARE Kenya:  “There are two sides to the drought. On the surface, you have the failed rains and the increased food and fuel prices. If you look deeper, the underlying reasons become visible: the impacts of climate change, chronic vulnerability, poverty and social injustice.”

Refugees at the Dadaab camp in Kenya wait for water delivery | Photo Credit: CARE Canada, All Rights Reserved

Refugees at the Dadaab camp in Kenya wait for water delivery | Photo Credit: CARE Canada, All Rights Reserved

Many of our TckTckTck partners working in the region, including CARE International are struggling to provide adequate humanitarian aid with limited resources. According to CARE Country Director Stephen Gwynne-Vaughan:

“The initial emergency response of providing high-energy biscuits to refugees at the Daadab settlement has proved inefficient. Recent arrivals are so malnourished that complete food aid baskets including blankets, water containers, sleeping mats, plastic sheets and kitchen sets are now required. CARE is also trucking potable water and expanding existing water supply and distribution systems to meet needs of new arrivals…Without additional funding, the food aid pipeline for refugees will run dry by September.”

Fighting climate injustice with aid, education and legislation

Right now the best way you can support relief efforts in the Horn is through a monetary donation to a registered charity like CARE International or other tcktcktck partners working in the region.

Longer term solutions to the drought and food crisis will require time, funding and most of all, a strong commitment from world leaders to provide support for climate adaptation. One way to do this is through initiatives like the Financial Transaction Tax, a small levy on bank transactions that could provide billions in funding for alleviating world hunger and educating on climate change solutions. Another is to keep fighting for a strong global climate deal and robust green climate fund. Delegates at last December’s UN Climate Convention in Cancun voted to establish the fund, with 40 nations agreeing to support climate adaptation projects, programmes and policies in the least developed countries, allowing them to build resilience and coping mechanisms.

“We need to build sustainability. The goal is to avoid short term humanitarian responses which can build dependency, but rather to ensure that people are able to feed themselves and break the cycle of recurring food insecurity” – Gary McGurk, Assistant Country Director for Kenya at CARE International

This December, the UN climate delegates will meet in Durban, South Africa for a new round of talks. Until now, the prospect of substantial progress towards a fair, ambitious and binding deal seemed unlikely. We hope that with 10 million lives hanging in the balance, their resolve to make history will be stronger now than ever.

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