The Australian Government is extremely concerned about the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, especially the declaration of famine in parts of southern Somalia by the UN on 20 July. More than 12 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance because of consecutive droughts, following two poor rain seasons, and a lack of food.
The United Nations has launched a $2 billion international emergency appeal in response to the crisis.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has responded rapidly to the emerging crisis with funding for urgently needed food rations and shelter to help the most vulnerable people in the Horn of Africa affected by the crisis.
On 24 July, Minister Rudd travelled to the Ethiopia and Somalia border areas with World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran to underline the absolute importance of a coordinated global response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
Australia is closely monitoring the humanitarian situation and is working with partners on the ground to best assess how Australia can continue to support the Horn of Africa region and famine-affected areas of Somalia.
According to the UN financial Tracking Service, Australia is currently the world's fourth largest country donor to the Horn of Africa and has provided more than $88 million, including:
Emergency food rations and nutritional support through the World Food Programme (WFP) ($57 million)
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. WFP is extending operations to feed over 11.5 million drought affected people in the Horn of Africa. WFP has reached 1.5 million people in Somalia including, Mogadishu and central and northern Somalia. WFP is also providing assistance to drought affected populations in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Emergency shelter and protection for women and children in refugee camps through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ($15 million)
The UNHCR has formulated an emergency response with the objective of providing immediate life-saving assistance and humanitarian aid in places where people have remained in their communities or where people have fled to seek help in other countries. This response aims to reach as many people as possible and reduce the need for cross-border movement.
UNHCR has started the distribution of emergency assistance packages that consist of core relief items, such as jerry cans, buckets, pots, plates and other utensils which allow people to prepare and store safely the water and food they received from WFP and others. The packages also include high-energy biscuits, oral re-hydration salts and water purification tablets. In southern and central Somalia, UNHCR has so far distributed emergency assistance packages to some 100,000 people.
Food and nutrition assistance and water and sanitation services through Australian non-government organisations (NGOs) including CARE, Caritas, Oxfam, Plan, Save the Children and World Vision ($6.2 million)
AusAID has activated the Humanitarian Partnership Agreement (HPA), the formal mechanism for engagement between AusAID and six pre-qualified Australian NGOs (Caritas, CARE, Oxfam, PLAN International, Save the Children and World Vision) in humanitarian emergency responses. The mechanism provides fast funding to the NGOs, who are best-placed to respond quickly and effectively. To complement Australia's funding to the UNHCR for assistance to people living in refugee camps, all of the NGO assistance will be provided to people still struggling with the drought in their own communities. These NGOs have Australians on the ground in Ethiopia and Kenya and are being funded as follows:
Somalia: $2.3 million - Save the Children and Oxfam for water and sanitation, nutrition, emergency food and livelihood activities
Ethiopia: $1.4 million - Plan and Care for nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and livelihood activities
Kenya: $1.3 million - Care, World Vision and Caritas for nutrition, water and sanitation, and protection
Australia also provided $1.2 Million to Save the Children in June 2010 to help communities in Somalia and Kenya to reduce their vulnerability to natural disasters – such as drought, by implementing medium and long term activities to support livelihood adaption in arid zones and extending disaster risk reduction activities to schools and communities.
Distribution of emergency food rations to south Somalia through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ($5 million)
This will also support therapeutic feeding and primary health care centres and the distribution of seeds to boost food production.
Agricultural and livestock support through the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization ($2 million)
$1.2 million has been provided for livelihood support for agricultural and pastoral communities in humanitarian emergency and for the acute food and livelihood crisis in south central Somalia. $800,000 has been provided to protect pastoral community livestock in south central Somalia and enhance the community's capacity to cope with shock.
Flexible funding where there are gaps in assistance, including food and nutrition services in Somalia, through a joint UN fund ($3 million)
Technical expertise through Red R deployments to help manage and coordinate the response to this crisis.
Funded by AusAID, Red R (an Australian NGO that provides emergency assistance to communities devastated by conflict or major natural disasters) has deployed three Australian specialists to Ethiopia to support the work of key UN humanitarian agencies (WFP, OCHA and UNHCR), three to Kenya working with UNICEF and OCHA, and one to Kenya/Somalia working with UNICEF.
Building on long-term support
Australia already has a long history of supporting the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya and, through our partnership with the WFP, we are helping to build long-term food security in the region. Australia is building the livelihoods of drought affected communities in Somalia and in the arid and semi arid areas of northern Kenya as part of the UK's Hunger Safety Net Programme. Australia is making a significant investment in improving the maize and legume crop productivity of up to 500,000 small farmers through the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR). Through support to Australian NGOs, Australia is also enhancing agricultural practices in communities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Australians should have no illusions about the difficulty of delivering aid in disaster and conflict affected regions such as Southern Somalia. In the past few years 14 aid workers have lost their lives trying to deliver aid in this region. However the people most at need are also in these conflicted affected areas. The alternative is to sit on our hands and wait for the perfect conditions to arise and watch as literally hundreds of thousands of people die.