May 22, 2024

Horn of Africa: UN humanitarian chief calls for urgent action to save lives

The drought in the Horn of Africa has already affected more than 18 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. ©Brian Inganga

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, concluded a two-day visit to Kenya on 13 May where he saw first-hand the devastating impact of a fourth consecutive failed rainy season in the Horn of Africa.

“During my visit, I met with people in the village of Lomopus in Turkana County, Kenya, and spoke with displaced people in Doolow, Somalia, as well as Korehey zone in the Somali Region of Ethiopia,” said Mr. Griffiths. “Each of the people I spoke with were clear: this crisis is threatening both their lives, and their way of life. They need the world’s attention and action. Now.”

The drought in the Horn of Africa has already affected more than 18 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, including at least 16.7 million people who are waking hungry each day and do not know where their next meal will come from. These numbers are expected to rise in the weeks ahead, as the current rainy season (which ordinarily lasts from March to May) has been below-average, making this the longest drought in the Horn of Africa in at least four decades.

In the village of Lomopus, community members told Mr. Griffiths that this is the worst drought they have endured in living memory. Many families have lost their livestock and are struggling to survive. Those who manage to buy food are sharing their meagre supplies with their neighbours, while many only have palm fruit to eat. Children in the village depend on the Government’s school feeding programme to have one meal a day, as there is often no food at home. In the school, students explained that some of their classmates have had to drop out because they could not pay the fees, while some girls have been removed from school by their parents to be married.

“We have been ringing the alarm on this crisis, and urging whomever is able to contribute, for many months,” said Mr. Griffiths. “I am grateful to our donors for their pledges and commitments to help us respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa. But the reality is that we are out of time: if we don’t immediately receive new funding to scale-up humanitarian operations, we are faced with the prospect of significant loss of life in the period ahead.”

During his visit, the humanitarian chief also met with Kenyan Government officials, with whom he discussed the Government’s response to the drought, as well as the vital need for life-saving action today, accompanied by support for drought-affected communities to adapt and thrive into the future.

Wrapping up his visit, Mr. Griffiths said: “if I have one message to the world, it is to not forget the people of Lomopus and others across the region who desperately need our support. These people are the human face of the global climate crisis, which they have done nothing to create. We must step-up and stand in solidarity with them before it is too late.”