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Humanitarian Scenario for the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region (June - October 2015)

Originally published



The objective of this overview is to support the development of national-level response and preparedness plans and facilitate joint priority actions in the areas of advocacy, resource mobilization, and coordinated engagement in cross border areas.

There has been a step change in the threat level in the region in 2015. There is an increasing concern about the confluence and compounding impacts of these threats, both at the national and the regional level. The outlook presented here will be updated on a bi-monthly basis.

While economic growth and progress in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been recorded in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region, the region is home to some of the most vulnerable populations who are exposed to recurrent cycles of conflict and climatic shocks. There are five dynamics that could increase humanitarian needs and undo development progress. Combined they could overwhelm the humanitarian system and potentially threaten the stability of the region.

1. Proliferation and intensification of violence and conflict triggering new waves of population displacement: In Burundi, political unrest and the failed coup have to date displaced more than 96,000 people to neighbouring states. The situation will most likely remain restive for the foreseeable future. If instability intensifies and disrupts the upcoming harvest, humanitarian needs will increase, as some 90 per cent of the population in Burundi relies exclusively on agriculture, and there could be more accelerated population displacements both inside and outside of the country. Following the failure of peace talks, the conflict in South Sudan has intensified, with heavy fighting in Unity and Upper Nile States. While the conflict in Yemen has not yet resulted in large outflows of people a shortage of fuel or food could trigger Yemenis seeking protection and the return of some of the estimated 883,000 vulnerable refugees and migrants in Yemen, including 258,0000 Somali refugees and some of the 80,000 Ethiopian migrants who have on average of entered Yemen annually, not all of whom have transited through to Saudi Arabia.

2. Threat to stability of buffer states: Al-Shabaab’s ability to operate in Somalia and to launch asymmetric attacks inside Kenya remains undiminished. Al-Shabaab has recently expressed its intent to carry out attacks in Uganda and Burundi. Kenya has also witnessed a sharp increase in inter-communal conflict in some counties of the North Rift. While individually these developments are of concern, combined they challenge the stability of the state, may facilitate the spread of extremist ideology; and increase the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALWs) in the region.

3. Economic shocks affect the most vulnerable and reduce their capacity to cope: South Sudan’s oil revenue has collapsed due to a fall in the global crude price, decline in oil production, and a fixed transportation fee structure. The resulting shortage of foreign currency has led to a sharp depreciation of the South Sudanese pound, inflation and shortages of fuel and flour are now being reported. The threat of capture and disorderly shutdown of the oil fields in Upper Nile State by rebel groups would deprive current and future governments of oil revenue and cause a severe economic and political crisis. Remittances are a lifeline for an estimated 40 per cent of the Somali population, but financial anti-terrorism regulation has led to the closure of bank accounts of an increasing number of money transfer organizations that had facilitated the transfer of an estimated $ 1.2 - $1.5 billion in remittances.

4. Increase in food insecurity and malnutrition outlook. Coming into the lean season and with humanitarian access limited, food insecurity and malnutrition could deteriorate, especially in parts of South Sudan (with GAM rates already at double the emergency threshold in the north of the country and some 7.9 million people will be food insecure), Burundi (which ranks top in the Global Hunger Index), eastern DRC and southern Somalia Currently 12.3 million people in Yemen are food insecure and some could seek refuge in the Horn.

5. Increase in communicable diseases. An increase in population movements into overcrowded settlements combined with poor sanitation, shortage of safe potable water could lead to the spread of diseases in the region. In South Sudan, outbreaks of cholera and Kalazar affected thousands of people in 2014 and the pattern is likely to continue in 2015. A gap in the supply of medicine in South Sudan in the last quarter of the year is of great concern. A cholera outbreak has been reported in the Burundi/Tanzania border among people fleeing the political tensions in Burundi. Cholera and Measles outbreaks have also increased in Somalia.

The ability of the humanitarian community to meet these growing needs is constraint by two factors:

• Potential reduction in humanitarian space due to restrictive legislation and violence. Following the Al Shabaab attack on Garissa, the Government of Kenya has threatened to close down the Dadaab refugee camp. Whilst there has since been a recommitment to the November 2013 Tripartite Agreement between the Governments of Kenya and Somalia and UNHCR, on voluntary returns, concerns about the rise of extremism are increasingly influencing policy, which can have serious humanitarian consequences. Humanitarian space is shrinking across the region, as part of longer-term trend Sudan, or newly adopted legislation in South Sudan. Concerns about the rise of violent extremism and the stability of states, combined with domestic elections have the potential to override international obligations and humanitarian principles. High levels of violence are also preventing aid workers from carrying out their work. For instance, since late April, some 151 staff members from 22 organizations have been relocated from southern Unity State in South Sudan due to the insecurity. The killing of 4 UN staff in an Al Shabaab attack in Garowe, Puntland, on 20 April was another devastating reminder of the dangerous operating environment in Somalia, and likely tocause long term implications for its management for operational agencies in Somalia.

• Underfunding: Global humanitarian requirements have also continued to rise. In 2015, a record $19.1 billion will be required to assist over 114 million people in 35 countries. Humanitarian requirements for the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa exceed $5 billion. However this requirement is increasingly unlikely to be funded at acceptable levels. Globally, $3.38 billion have been committed so far (18%), leaving a shortfall of $15.7 billion. In 2013 the Syria response plans received the largest amount of overall funding: 38 per cent of appeal funding ($3.1 billion). This amount was larger than the combined funding received by DRC, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
Borderlands throughout the region are particularly at risk and the compound effects of these eight dynamics could in particular affect the following areas:

• Greater Upper Nile in South Sudan: Highest multi-dimensional poverty level, intensifying conflict, economic collapse and shrinking humanitarian space.

• South–Central Somalia: continuing insecurity and underfunding of the appeal, with potential closure of Dadaab and inflow from Yemen, and cutting off of remittances.

• Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – High level of food insecurity, existing caseload of IDP’s, inflow from Burundi and upsurge in conflict.

• Northern Kenya: Conduit and corridor for proliferation for small arms, heavily marginalised areas in the North, at risk of terrorist attack.

• Djibouti: A dramatic increase in the mixed migrants coming across the Gulf of Aden into the most vulnerable regions like Obock. Humanitarian appeals traditionally underfunded due to middle-income status of the country.

• Western Tanzania will be a country of concern if Dadaab closes and outflows from Burundi continue.

• Ethiopia has witnessed failing rains, receiving insufficient levels of humanitarian funding and is hosting increasing numbers of refugees from neighbouring states.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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