A second year of drought in the Horn of Africa has created a humanitarian disaster for some 10 million people, the United Nations reported Wednesday.
The past two rainy seasons have yielded little rainfall in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, leaving pastures and farm fields dry. Areas of Djibouti and Uganda are also experiencing their worst drought in 60 years, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Record high food prices are compounding the problem with grain prices expected to continue to rise until harvests later this year.
In the Somali city of Baidoa, the price of red sorghum, a type of grain, has risen 240 percent since May 2010, while in the eastern Ethiopian city of Jiiga the market price of yellow maize has gone up 117 percent.
Unrest in southern Somalia and parts of northeast Kenya have prevented humanitarian assistance from reaching those areas and increasing numbers of people displaced by drought and warfare are heading to refugee camps. According to the U.N., an average of 15,000 drought-displaced Somalis are arriving in Kenya and Ethiopia every month.
A spokesperson for the International Medical Corp (IMC) said the combination of factors—drought, rising food prices, and armed conflict—are pushing Somalis to a tipping point.
“The fact that the crisis sort of environment has continued for so long, it’s definitely a much more desperate situation,” said Rebecca Milner
“I don’t really want to use the word crisis,” she said, “but it is, it is reaching a crisis stage.”
IMC, which focuses on community development to prevent malnutrition, operates from Somaliland, a self-declared republic in Northern Somalia, and on the Ethiopian border with Somalia, but it has no facilities in Somalia because it is too dangerous for aid workers.
“It’s a region in the world that cycles in an out of crisis and cycles in and out of demand for additional humanitarian assistance,” Milner said.
U.N. statistics show that 15–30 percent more livestock have been dying across the Horn.
In a report last February, the U.N.’s humanitarian news agency IRIN reported that some livestock owners in the self-declared autonomous state of Galmudug in central Somalia had already lost 75 percent of their sheep, 50 percent of their cattle, and 30 percent of their camels.
Last week, G20 members met to discuss the global food crisis in Paris. The ministers agreed to a pilot initiative to provide more emergency humanitarian aid to some of the world’s least developed countries. The final proposal will be announced in September.
Many non-government organizations criticized the meeting’s results, saying they did not dig deeply enough to tackle the root of the growing problem of food shortages around the world.
Some groups, especially in the regions where the situation is already desperate, complain that the international community is doing nothing to help.“We are no longer on the verge of a humanitarian disaster; we are in the middle of it now. It is happening and no one is helping,” Isaq Ahmed, the chairman of the Mubarak Relief and Development Organization (MURDO), a local NGO in Somalia, told IRIN on 28 June.
Food prices around the world shot up this years to highs not seen since the 2007–8 food crisis. Price spikes and food shortages have pushed another 44 million people into poverty, according to estimates by the World Bank.