Ethiopia + 2 more

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths Remarks at High-Level Roundtable on the drought in the Horn of Africa


Thank you to all present for joining us on this important day.

And thanks also to Janez for co-hosting.

I would particularly like to thank the Prime Minister of Somalia, Mr. Mohamed Hussein Roble; the Commissioner for the Ethiopian National Disaster Management Commission of Ethiopia, Chief Executive Office of Kenya’s National Drought Management Agency, Lieutenant Colonel Hared Hassan and for being here to share their insights on what needs to be done.

This year, as we heard Commissioner Lenarčič, most of Somalia; and significant parts of Ethiopia and Kenya are caught in the throes of one of the region’s most severe droughts in decades. As simple as that.

For the first time in 40 years, people are facing the almost certain possibility of a fourth consecutive poor rainy season. If this season’s rains do indeed fail, as projected, the Horn of Africa may experience one of the worst climate-induced emergencies in its history. A once-in-a-generation tragedy.

Last month, when I chaired a Member States briefing on the drought, at least 12 million people in the affected areas of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were already experiencing high hunger levels.

Just one month on, that figure has surpassed 15 million.

Families across the region are fleeing their homes in search of food, water, pasture or jobs. More than 1 million people have left their homes – never an easy choice – since early last year.

Millions of children are already acutely malnourished, with close to 2 million children across the region at risk of starving to death.

But as we all know, the dangers of a hunger crisis go far beyond starvation.

Most people in a hunger crisis die of preventable diseases, such as respiratory infections or measles, because their bodies are too weak to fight these threats.

Children are pulled out of school in droves.

Women and girls are at higher risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse, and more pregnant women die in childbirth due to a lack of access to clean water.

Millions of people’s livelihoods are wiped out as crops cannot be planted, or they dry up and as livestock die.
The Prime Minister of Somalia was just telling me today that 1 million livestock have been lost in Somalia already.
Herders and farmers have lost over 3 million animals across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia due to this drought.

As drought and other climate shocks in the Horn of Africa become more frequent and more severe, these people – the victims each time – have less time to recover.

Here, again, the reality is self-evident that the people who have done the least to cause the global climate crisis are being hit the hardest. Somalia is especially hard-hit right now as we will hear.

We, along with the Governments of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, have been ringing the alarm on this crisis for many, many months. And of course, Janez has done the same in many different ways.

We have been doing so because we’ve learned how to avert the worst consequences of drought in the Horn of Africa. we’ve learned painful lessons along the way.

In 2010-11, drought, conflict and limited humanitarian access in Somalia brought famine that killed more than a quarter of a million people.

In 2017, when drought brought millions of people to the brink of famine, we drew on lessons learned, mounted a rapid and large-scale humanitarian response and averted the worst.

But the harsh truth we must acknowledge today is that we are in a race against time again to avert large-scale loss of life in 2022, and we don’t have the resources to do so.

This year, humanitarian agencies have already assisted more than 6 million people.

And we now have more than 15 million to help.

Since early last year, the Central Emergency Response Fund has allocated $123 million to the drought response, including $30 million announced two weeks ago.

But we need more funding – and we need it now, if we are able to do what we are there to do, to help people avert the worst.

Almost $1.4 billion is required to respond to the drought across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia over the next six months, but only a small percentage of this funding has yet been received.

Insufficient funds equals insufficient help. And for many, that help is a lifeline.

We don’t have any time to lose.

In recent weeks, I’ve heard many people voice their fears that the conflict in Ukraine risks diverting the world’s attention and finances.

And I’ve seen it in my own daily life and those of my colleagues.

I have said it before, and I’ll repeat it here: and indefinitely. I do not believe that solidarity or hope are finite commodities.

I believe the generosity of Member States will be sustained today as we look at the worst of the worst prospects of the people in the Horn.

We know how to do this. We have to act now.

Lives indeed, are hanging in the balance.

Thank you.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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