As prepared for delivery
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you all for joining us today. As the world is grappling with multiple large-scale crises, it is so important that we are here today in solidarity with those who are suffering outside the immediate media spotlight.
I would like to thank the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia, Mr. Taye Atskeselassie Made, and Mr. Gideon Kinuthia, Political Coordinator at the Kenyan Permanent Mission to the UN, who will also share their views on the impact of the drought.
I am extremely concerned about the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. The region is experiencing one of its most severe droughts in recent history following three consecutive poor rainy seasons. Most of Somalia, southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, and northern and eastern Kenya are experiencing exceptional drought. In Somalia, which has been hardest hit, nearly 90 per cent of the country’s districts are affected.
As a result, between 12 and 14 million people across the three countries are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and severe water shortages. About 5.7 million children are expected to be acutely malnourished this year, including more than 1.7 million children who will be severely acutely malnourished. Food prices have risen in many droughtaffected areas, leaving families unable to afford even the basics.
Many water points have dried up or diminished in quality, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases. In some of the worst affected areas in Somalia, water prices have spiked by up to 72 per cent since last November. The drought is having devastating consequences for women and children, heightening the risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse, and hampering children’s access to education. In Somalia, the drought emergency has disrupted education for 1.4 million children, of whom 420,000 – 45 per cent of them girls – are at risk of dropping out of school.
Families are taking desperate measures to survive, with hundreds of thousands leaving their homes in search of food, water and pasture. In Somalia, drought has displaced more than 670,000 people, while an estimated 175,000 people have been displaced in Ethiopia’s Somali and Oromia regions.
This drought is also devastating for those who depend on livestock for their livelihoods. An estimated 1.5 million livestock have died due to lack of food and water in Ethiopia, with an additional 1.5 million livestock deaths due to drought in Kenya.
Families have told aid workers of not having enough milk to feed their children. Of taking straw from the roofs of their homes to keep their livestock alive a little longer.
Affected communities have been hit by increasingly frequent and severe droughts, making it harder to recover between shocks, the effect of climate change. In the past 10 years, the Horn of Africa has endured three severe droughts. The 2010-2011 drought, combined with conflict and a complex humanitarian access picture, caused famine in Somalia and led to more than a quarter of a million excess deaths.
The 2016-2017 drought brought millions of people in the region to the brink of famine, which was prevented through rapid and timely humanitarian response, the issue that we are discussing together here today.
The increasing frequency of shocks has meant that affected people have limited time to recover before the next crisis hits, not having enough time to build back their household assets, compounding their vulnerability and contributing, of course, to increased displacement. It’s a vicious cycle.
At the same time, many drought-affected communities are struggling to cope with the cumulative consequences of other shocks, including conflict, of course, flooding, COVID19, remember that, and the desert locust upsurge in the region.
The delivery of life-saving and life-sustaining assistance has scaled up significantly in recent months, with assistance provided to 1.4 million people in Somalia, over 2.7 million in Ethiopia and 830,000 in Kenya. But more is urgently required to prevent large-scale loss of life, what is called excess deaths, in the period ahead. It is imperative that we act now, as we have a brief window in which to scale up our response with your generosity and in this discussion.
This means rapidly expanding the reach of ongoing food assistance and nutritional support for the most vulnerable. It means increased water trucking. Repairing non-functioning boreholes. Rehabilitating water points. It means improving access to health services, including vaccinations. It means safeguarding the livestock that remain through treatment and vaccination.
Humanitarian partners have appealed for more than US$4.4 billion to provide life-saving assistance and protection to just under 30 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in 2022 in those three countries.
Early, flexible funding for the Ethiopia and Somalia Humanitarian Response Plans, and the Kenya Flash Appeal – its companion for Kenya – is essential so that we can immediately respond to the life-threatening needs across the Horn of Africa. We need to act now. We have been acting early but we still have quite a lot to do to stem the worst of consequences.
Since early 2021, CERF, our Central Emergency Response Fund, has allocated over $93 million for early and anticipatory action to address drought impacts in the three countries.
Thank you for your generosity to CERF as well.
Donors have been very generous with their contributions in recent years – which has saved lives, as I mentioned. 2016-2017 was just such a time. But the bulk of funding often comes late in the year as in so many other places. And with this kind of crisis that’s too late.
With needs on the rise, timely funding, early funding, funding now, is urgently required to sustain and expand the response. We learned from earlier experiences in drought response why early funding is essential.
So frontloading funding now to scale up urgent life-saving activities can help prevent additional significant, severe human suffering, significant increases in morbidity and mortality, which means deaths, and what could otherwise become an even more costly response later this year.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, with the world’s attention focused on other contexts – and we know that so clearly in this city – and on other crises, we must not lose sight of the devastating human impact of the drought in the Horn of Africa. Millions of people in the
region depend on us and on their Governments to provide what they need to avoid further disastrous consequences.
Thank you very much indeed for listening to me. I now hand the floor to the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia here in New York.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.