A year on from the Horn of Africa crisis

from Australian Agency for International Development
Published on 21 Aug 2012 View Original

At the height of the Horn of Africa crisis in July 2011, more than 13 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti were faced with the consequences of severe drought.

Their situation was exacerbated by a tenuous food security situation, high food and fuel prices and widespread insecurity that displaced many people from their homes and into neighbouring countries. Somalia was the worst hit, with three-quarters of a million people and six regions facing imminent famine.

The international community responded to the crisis following a United Nations appeal for $2.48 billion for emergency needs.

The Australian Government was one of the largest donors to the crisis, providing $112.2 million in humanitarian assistance from March 2011 (see Australian Government Assistance to the Horn of Africa Crisis)

This funding helped humanitarian agencies provide urgently needed food rations, health support and shelter to help the most vulnerable.

  • The UN World Food Programme provided food assistance to 7.9 million people (external website).

  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees registered and provided assistance to 686,000 refugees (66 per cent children) in camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

  • The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) treated 370,000 malnourished children and immunised one million children.

Under the Dollar-for-Dollar initiative, the Australian public generously provided $13.5 million to Australian non-government organisations in response to the crisis. The Australian Government matched these funds, resulting in a total of $27.1 million for food, nutrition, health, water, sanitation, and livelihood support across the region (see Dollar for Dollar Initiative).

One year on there has been a marked improvement in the situation.

By November 2011, favourable rains and the substantial humanitarian response helped ease the number of regions in Somalia affected by famine from six to three, and reduced the number of people facing famine from 750,000 to 250,000. By the end of the year, famine had ended.

Across the arid and semi-arid areas of the region, a projected increase in agricultural production pointed to a tentative recovery in early 2012. And in the first half of 2012 there was a further 37 per cent reduction in the number of people suffering from severe food shortages.

However, these achievements remain precarious.

In Somalia alone, two and a half million people remain in crisis, and more than a million still require humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs. An estimated 323,000 Somali children are malnourished.

In Djibouti, Ethiopia and northern Kenya, food security has slowly improved, but the situation remains fragile and uncertain. New shocks—below average harvests, outbreaks of disease, continued or expanded restrictions on humanitarian access—can quickly erode gains.

The number of people who are displaced remains significant and is continuing to grow. In Sudan and South Sudan, ongoing conflict is forcing many people to flee their homes. In Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen, some 983,000 Somali refugees remain. More than 1.3 million are internally displaced within the country. This is placing continued pressure on surrounding areas to provide food, shelter and health care to the large numbers of internally displaced and refugees.

To assist those who still remain in crisis, Australia has provided nearly $29 million this year to UN agencies and Australian NGOs in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan for critical humanitarian activities. Australia also continues to focus on long-term resilience-building programs so that communities in East Africa are better able to withstand future shocks.

How Australia is continuing to help

Since January this year, Australia has provided nearly $29 million to UN agencies and Australian NGOs in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan for food assistance, nutrition, livelihood recovery and other critical humanitarian activities.

Australia is also continuing to help communities build longer-term resilience so they are better able to withstand future shocks.

  • Through the Hunger Safety Net Program, we are providing cash transfers to more than 60,000 (growing to up to 900,000 by 2015) people who do not have access to sufficient food in Northern Kenya.

  • We are also helping to provide affordable livestock insurance for vulnerable households by subsidising 30,000 insurance contracts for vulnerable pastoralist households. This protects families against future shocks by protecting their livestock—one of their key assets. This program is providing a critical mass of demand to ensure that such financial services are affordable yet commercially viable for the private sector.

  • In addition to funding support, Australia also supported the deployment of 17 technical experts to work within UN agencies to support their operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan.

More information
Australia celebrates World Humanitarian Day