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A historic drought strikes! who will save the horn of africa

Currently, the Horn of Africa region is experiencing its driest conditions since 1981. The UN World Food Programme has warned that in the first quarter of this year, some 13 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia will face severe famine, thousands of people will be displaced and millions of livestock will die. Some 5.5 million children in these three countries are expected to suffer from severe malnutrition this year.

The combination of multiple factors leads to limited means to cope with drought

Three consecutive monsoons in the Horn of Africa have left Somalia, southern and southeastern Ethiopia, and large swathes of northern and eastern Kenya facing unusually dry conditions. In hardest-hit Somalia, nearly 90 percent of the region is experiencing drought. In October and November last year, rainfall in parts of Somalia was 55% to 70% lower than the average for the past 40 years.

Some experts have analyzed that the drought in the Horn of Africa may be related to the La Niña phenomenon accompanied by the rise in temperature in the Western Pacific. In recent years, as climate change has intensified, La Niña has also occurred more frequently, which also means that the region will continue to experience insufficient rainfall during the monsoon. The current meteorological data also support this statement.

Aside from the external cause of climate change, which is difficult to solve for a while, various internal factors such as security, development, and governance also limit the means of regional countries to deal with drought. Taking Somalia as an example, the water level of Somalia’s main river, the Juba River (also the second largest river in East Africa), has been declining, hitting a new low since 1957, and the river is almost dry. Nearby residents were forced to dig holes in the riverbed to find water sources. Crocodiles that originally lived in the river died in large numbers due to lack of food sources and shelter from river water, and the regional ecosystem was severely damaged.

The decrease in rainfall itself has caused the water volume of the Juba River to fall to the bottom of the valley, and those waterways used for flood discharge and artificial waterways used for irrigation have diverted a lot of water from the river that is already scarce. The existing irrigation facilities are few in number and inefficient in operation, and some facilities are basically in a state of abandonment, resulting in the inability of water resources to be efficiently used for agricultural production. Some areas are affected by the “Shabaab” in Somalia, and regional security is at stake. It is difficult for the government to effectively manage the relevant areas and help the affected people. It is also difficult for some international agencies and organizations to enter the relevant areas for assistance activities. Under the influence of the above-mentioned factors, the region is extremely weak to cope with a large-scale severe drought.

Drought will deepen

Horn of Africa development dilemma

The drought-induced reduction in water resources has the most direct impact of crop failure and livestock death. In some areas, grain production has dropped by 60% to 70%, exacerbating the rise in the price of staple food and inflation. More than 1.4 million livestock died due to drought in the second half of last year, according to Kenya’s National Drought Administration, and 240,000 in southern Ethiopia. In drought-stricken areas, the price of water sold by private traders (water trucks and donkey carts) has risen by 300 percent. In addition, affected by the situation in Russia and Ukraine, wheat prices and international oil prices have risen rapidly, and East Africa has relied heavily on imports of wheat, which is even worse for the Horn of Africa region, which is already experiencing a food crisis. The rise in oil prices has also driven up regional prices, further driving up the cost of living for local residents.

Due to lack of drinking water, crop failures, and poor survival of livestock, large numbers of people have been displaced and forced to relocate in search of suitable habitats. In Kenya and Somalia, pastoralists travel long distances to find water and pastures for their livestock, and there have been many conflicts between these people and indigenous groups over resources. Water scarcity also poses significant challenges for the region to deal with health problems. This historic drought will undoubtedly make the development dilemma of the Horn of Africa even more difficult.

Aid or self-help

Due to the delayed rainy season from March to May this year and the possibility of low rainfall, the Horn of Africa will enter the dry season again after June. Therefore, Paulson, Director of the Office of Emergency Operations and Resilience of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said that from There is now a short window until June this year for urgent action to prevent the drought from making the situation worse. At present, the World Food Program is providing various forms of assistance such as food assistance, smallholder insurance, nutritional treatment, early warning services and cash grants to the disaster-stricken areas. China has also announced that it will provide a batch of emergency food assistance to Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti. to cope with drought.

Aid is important, but it is only a temporary success. The real solution to the development dilemma of the Horn of Africa is to rely on regional countries to enhance their hard power and break the interference of hotspot issues on regional development.

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