May 26, 2024

The destiny of 20 million children in the Horn of Africa is in the hands of global leaders.

© WFP/SamanthaReinders

Daniel Chilemba in Kenya

Save the Children pointed out that the responsibility of dealing with the severe hunger and protection crisis that approximately 20 million children are confronting in the Horn of Africa, as a result of rapidly increasing extreme weather conditions, lies solely with world leaders who are scheduled to gather in New York on Wednesday.

The climate crisis, coupled with prolonged conflicts and economic shocks, is causing unpredictable and severe weather patterns that are affecting over 40 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia, and  Kenya, leaving them in a precariously vulnerable position.

Unless there is significant and long-term funding allocated towards establishing early warning mechanisms for effective preparation of impending catastrophic events, forthcoming generations will be similarly vulnerable.

Smartly rephrased: Save the Children is urging global leaders and significant donors to capitalize on the upcoming pledging event for Horn of Africa funds by allocating more humanitarian aid in advance to defend against future shocks and mitigate effects before it becomes too late.

The longest and most severe drought in the last four decades has afflicted the Horn of Africa due to five consecutive unsuccessful rainy seasons.

The insufficiency of the spring showers has led to a failure in yielding crops that are crucial for the swift revival of the livelihoods of families who are still grappling with the aftermath of a prolonged drought.

The heavy rainfall has caused serious flooding in certain areas, leading to an increase in both displacement and aggravating the already existing food shortage.

In a span of 2 days, roughly 107,000 children were uprooted due to flash flooding in Beledweyne, central Somalia. Homes, hospitals, and markets were all ruined as revealed by Save the Children personnel in the region.

Homes, crops and livestock have been extensively harmed by floods during March and April in several regions of Kenya, leading to the displacement of many people. In some regions of the nation, a sixth consecutive dry season is approaching.

According to Save the Children, the climate crisis has resulted in a pattern of alternating droughts and flooding, causing widespread devastation globally. The organization warned that the poorest nations are particularly susceptible to these natural disasters.

The World Meteorological Organization has stated that the Horn of Africa is highly at risk to the El Niño weather pattern’s fluctuations in wind and sea surface temperatures.

This occurrence is predicted to happen later this year and could result in further flooding.

In order to meet the exceptional level of demand in the area, a collective amount of $7 billion needs to be obtained for the three nations by the year 2023. All of these plans are funded at less than 25% of the required amount.

According to Kijala Shako, who works as the regional spokesperson for East and Southern Africa at Save the Children:

“Climate change is fanning the flames of the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa and exacerbating existing challenges, further restricting people’s access to food, water, health and nutrition services, and livelihood activities.   

“Around 20 million children (about the population of New York State where leaders are convening for the conference) desperately need aid to survive. To make matters worse, the situation is set to deteriorate even further over the coming months. The region’s vulnerability to the El Nino phenomenon projected in the second half of 2023 cannot be underestimated.

“This may be our last chance to bring the hunger crisis under control as weather patterns remain erratic and conflicts persist. The only choice world leaders have is to step up or children will die.”

The crisis in the Horn of Africa is not only causing millions to suffer from hunger, but it is also increasing the likelihood of gender-based violence and the abuse of women and children. Furthermore, it is affecting the education of children in the region.

In order to survive, families are resorting to extreme measures and leaving their households to search for shelter, sustenance, hydration, and grazing land for their animals. As a result, women and children have become more susceptible and at greater risk of facing protection challenges. The education and acquisition of knowledge of children have been limited, affecting about three million children who are not enrolled in schools in the area, while another four million face the possibility of discontinuing their studies altogether.

Save the Children urges world leaders to act swiftly and sustainably by providing crucial funding to rescue lives from potential calamity and to prioritize funding in  early detection systems, readiness for disasters, and initiatives to boost resilience.