"Scarce grazing and water resources are likely to intensify conflict in the short-term," explains Lex Kassenberg, CARE Country Director for Somalia. "Let's not underestimate the fact that much of the affected area, especially the Gedo region, has been in famine or near famine conditions on and off for the past five years."
Drought is particularly acute in Somalia, where an estimated 2 million people need humanitarian assistance. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has stated there is "moderate risk" of a famine. The Gedo, Middle Juba and Bakool regions are among the worst affected areas of the country.
Two-thirds of the people in need of assistance in Somalia live in the southern part of the country, while the rest are in Somaliland in the northeast. CARE operates in most of the affected areas in Somalia, and plans to deliver food aid to at least 650,000 people over the next six months as well as continuing programmes focused on the underlying causes of the food crisis.
"In this fragile environment, it is critical to diversify people's ways of earning a living, especially for women, because they are the ones who stay behind with the children and the elders when the men move with the cattle herds," explains Kassenberg.
Across the Horn of Africa region as a whole, the number of people directly affected by the drought - already approximately 6 million people in four countries - continues to rise. CARE is scaling up its response and planning ahead for the case of further shortages of rain over the coming months. Water, food and other lifesaving interventions are underway, as well as more sustainable efforts such as feeding centres, economic alternatives for cattle herders, improved irrigation systems and diversified crop production.
"Vulnerability is highest among the cattle-herding communities, whose livestock losses are mounting in the drought-affected areas of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti," says Dan Maxwell, deputy regional director for CARE in east and central Africa. "The course of the crisis depends on the extent to which the March and April rains can regenerate pastures for animal grazing and water sources for both animals and people."
In Kenya, where the number of people who need humanitarian assistance is expected to rise to 2.5 million by next month, CARE is the lead agency for emergency response in the Garissa district in the North Eastern Province.
Despite food surpluses in certain parts of the country, notably the Rift Valley and Western Province, the sheer isolation of drought-affected areas and the regional scope of the crisis make it particularly challenging to offset the food shortages effectively.
CARE is transporting water in large tanks to the most vulnerable communities in the Garissa district and expects to provide water to three out of the 10 neediest communities there, reaching over 9,000 people.
According to Mohammed Qazilbash, senior programme manager for CARE in Kenya, it is important to bring food and water as close as possible to the communities in need so that people do not have to exhaust themselves travelling long distances.
"To avoid the escalation of cross-border tension, it is also imperative that aid to Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia is provided in a concerted and co-ordinated manner," Qazilbash adds.
A total of 2.6 million people need emergency assistance in Ethiopia, according to the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA). Of these, 1.7 million people who depend on livestock are facing an extreme food crisis, especially in the eastern Oromiya region.
In addition to the growing crisis in pastoralist areas, lowlands and midland cropping areas are still recovering from earlier droughts. The lack of food and water is weakening people's immune systems, contributing to the rise in localised measles and meningitis outbreaks.
CARE operates in both of the hardest hit areas, East and West Harage and the Borena Zone in Southern Oromiya.
CARE recently launched a Pastoral Livelihood Initiative (PLI) in the Borena Zone, supporting the pastoralists' capacity to cope during times of drought. Its emergency response includes water for schools and health clinics, water and supplementary food for livestock and animal health, and specific interventions on conflict mitigation and livestock management in times of crisis.
For more information or to schedule an interview with CARE staff in the Horn of Africa please contact
Regional Press Officer Bea Spadacini in Nairobi at + 254 (0) 725 22 10 36 or
Fiona Turnbull, head of communications, in London on + 44 207 934 9315.
CARE International is one of the world's largest humanitarian and development agencies with programmes in more than 70 countries.