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Horn of Africa: CARE calls for more attention to severe food insecurity

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Almost 8 million people in need of emergency assistance/Long and short-term measures must be complementary

Geneva, May 15, 2011. CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization, calls for the international community to respond to the current and recurring food insecurity in countries in the Horn of Africa. Almost eight million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are severely affected by an ongoing drought, made worse by the La Niña phenomenon and in some cases, conflict. Short-term crisis measures and longer-term development efforts must be complementary and reinforcing, CARE urges.

“Chronic vulnerability, poverty, social injustice and climate change are all responsible for recurring food insecurity in the Horn of Africa. On top of that, a significant increase in food and fuel prices has worsened the current situation,“ says Mohamed Khaled, CARE’s Regional Emergency Coordinator for East Africa. In Kenya, for example, the price of maize, a staple food has increased over 27 percent during the last three months. “Sufficient attention is needed now to prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods. At the same time, the underlying reasons need to be tackled to break the recurring cycles that have persisted in recent years.”

Even though the region experienced a long rainy season last year, this was not sufficient to allow people to rebuild their assets and recover from the losses of the previous drought in 2008/2009. “It is very likely, that the current rainy season will be below the normal level. This can result in low crop production and reduced grazing pastures for livestock,” Khaled says. “A poor performance of the March-May rainfalls could mean that seven to ten million people in the Horn of Africa will face an acute food and nutritional insecurity until September or even longer.” Levels of severe acute malnutrition are already above the threshold for emergencies and expected to rise in the coming six months.

The drought could have various negative long-term and immediate effects such as the outbreak of diseases, especially in areas with inadequate hygiene conditions; death of livestock; conflict over resources in pastoral areas and reduced purchasing power in the affected areas and in urban centers. “Pastoralist families are taking their children out of school as they cannot afford school fees or because they have to migrate with their livestock in search of pasture. Female students are the first to be taken out of school,” mentions Khaled.

The drought situation has been declared a national disaster in Somalia and Djibouti, and the Government of Ethiopia revised their Humanitarian Requirements Document in April 2011 to reflect the growing needs and mobilize the humanitarian community’s scale up of their response. While governments of the affected countries have already started interventions, short and long-term international assistance is needed to help address critical needs but also underlying structural causes and chronic vulnerabilities. “What is needed is a set of interventions which strengthens people’s own resilience capacity and coping mechanisms to survive such severe conditions while at the same time responds to their current humanitarian needs and protects their livelihoods. It is crucial that people can feed themselves through their own means instead of being dependent on food distributions,” Khaled says.

CARE offices in the Horn of Africa are responding to the situation by providing safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and livelihood protection as well as livestock interventions in order to help families respond to drought conditions and mitigate the impact of food insecurity. CARE’s programs in the region focus on creating resilience of the community. In Northern Kenya, for example, activities include natural resource management, livestock marketing, as well as activities to improve community capacity in business management and marketing skills. CARE works with communities to diversify their livelihood sources and supports local groups engaged in alternative and complementary livelihood options such as milk marketing, beekeeping and fodder production.