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Regional Outlook for the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region: April - June 2017

Originally published



East Africa faces one of the biggest humanitarian crises in its history. The number of people in need of food assistance has increased to 26.5 million and the number of refugees who have sought protection in the Horn of Africa region has increased by 640,000 people to 4.4 million over the past six months.1 An additional 3 million people were internally displaced during the past eight months. This is driven by successive episodes of drought and failed harvests, conflict, insecurity and economic shocks affecting the most vulnerable. Humanitarian needs are expected to increase in the months ahead.

Recent rainfall has been insufficient to compensate for the delayed start of the rainy season, which brought below average levels of precipitation in March and April. The current drought in the Horn is largely comparable to that of October to November 2010 that peaked in 2011 with grave humanitarian needs. Extensive growing season failures and record low vegetation are observed across Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia and coastal Kenya. Northern and western Kenya, southwestern Ethiopia and eastern Uganda are also affected, although with more moderate consequences. Extensive livestock deaths have been reported. April field reports from Somalia indicate that, due to distress selling and livestock deaths, households in northern and central areas have lost 40 to 60 per cent of their livestock and households in southern regions 20 to 40 per cent of their herds, since the Deyr 2016/17 assessment.

The number of people in Integrated Phase Classification Crisis (IPC) phase 3, 4 and 5 has increased significantly to 26.5 million – a 62 per cent increase compared to a year ago (16.4 million in May 2016). In South Sudan a famine affecting 90,000 people in Unity State was declared in February. Conditions in South Sudan continue to deteriorate with 5.5 million people expected to be severely food insecure in July – the peak of the lean season. The situation in Somalia has deteriorated and is of particular concern: 3.2 million people face Crisis and Emergency levels of food insecurity (up from 2.9 million) and severe drought, rising prices, continued access limitations, and depressed rain forecasts suggest an elevated risk of famine in Somalia in 2017.2 The food insecure population in Ethiopia has increased from 5.6 to 7.8 million following a poor start to the rainy season. This number is expected to increase further for the second half of the year. In Burundi, 2.6 million people are food insecure, including 700,000 in IPC Emergency Phase 4 and in Kenya 2.6 million are acutely food insecure.

Food insecurity is set to worsen due to continued conflict, a possible El-Niño and the Fall Armyworm infestation. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the probability of El-Niño occurring in the autumn is at 50 to 60 per cent. It is expected to affect Ethiopia, northern Kenya, Somalia, western Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and southwestern South Sudan. The Fall Armyworm has appeared in western Kenya, southwestern Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and central and western Uganda. In Uganda, it affects 54 districts, attacking up to 40 per cent of maize farms in some areas.

Acute malnutrition, especially among refugees and children under five, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers remains a major concern in many parts of South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur, Kordofan region, and Eastern Sudan), northern Kenya and Uganda’s Karamoja region. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates in South Sudan are above the 15 per cent emergency threshold in seven of the ten states, reaching 33 per cent in northern Bahr el-Ghazal.
Over 1.1 million South Sudanese children under five are acutely malnourished this year. Kenya is facing a nutrition crisis with GAM rates exceeding 30 per cent in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL). In Somalia, the projected number of acutely malnourished children has shot up by 50 per cent since the beginning of the year to 1.4 million, including over 275,000 who have or will suffer life-threatening severe acute malnutrition in 2017.

Conflict is pervasive and spreading in South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), while Kenya faces the risk of election-related violence in 2017. Insecurity and conflict are likely to increase in South Sudan due to the fragmentation of Government and armed groups. The emergence of new groups could lead to rising levels of insecurity and conflict in the long term. However, as much of the country’s access routes are impassable from April to November, a short-term reduction in fighting is expected during the current rainy season. Serious abuses against civilians in South Sudan have been reported, including killing, torture, rape and other forms of SGBV, recruitment of child soldiers, and destruction of property and livelihoods. The December 2016 power-sharing agreement in DRC has effectively collapsed and the elections planned for 2017 will likely be postponed. Conflict has intensified between the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the Kamuina Nsapu militia in Kasai province, and between Twa and Luba communities in Tanganyika. Resource scarcity in northern Kenya, coupled with the upcoming elections in August 2017, increases the risk of conflict and violence. Al-Shabaab is growing stronger in Somalia and attacks against civilians, NGOs and security forces will likely increase. A recent Government announcement on increased military offensives against al-Shabaab may further increase insecurity in Somalia. In Burundi, conflict is not out in the open but significant human rights violations continued to be reported. In Ethiopia, the situation remains relatively stable but the state of emergency in place since October 2016 was further extended at the end of March for four months. Conflict has reduced in Sudan since mid-2016 due to the unilateral cessation of hostilities announced by the Government of Sudan and some armed movements.

Nearly 640,000 people have sought protection since the start of 2017, making a total of 4.4 million refugees and asylum seekers in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa region. The majority of the newly displaced are from South Sudan and Burundi, with South Sudan being the fastest growing refugee crisis globally. Almost 2 million people are internally displaced in South Sudan, and more than 1.9 million South Sudanese have fled the country as refugees and asylum seekers since December 2013. This has led to a revision of the South Sudan Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP). Humanitarian partners anticipate 2.13 million South Sudanese refugees by the end of 2017. Nearly 65,000 Burundians have sought refuge since the start of the year bringing the total number of new refugees to 408,857.

More than 3 million people have become internally displaced in the region as a result of conflict and drought. Conflict in DRC has displaced more than 1.6 million people since August 2016 in the Kasai and Tanganyika provinces. Almost a million people have been displaced by drought conditions, predominantly internally. Over 739,000 people have been displaced in Somalia as a result of drought since November 2016, while nearly 200,000 people have been displaced in Ethiopia due to drought since the beginning of the year.

Consecutive droughts, failed harvests and livestock losses have eroded the coping capacity of the most vulnerable households. Whereas Government response capacity is much greater than in 2010/11 (for example both the Kenyan and Ethiopian Governments have allocated significant funds to meet humanitarian need) the scale of the current crisis exceeds that increased capacity.

Simultaneous disease outbreaks persist with cross-border implications, including malaria, cholera/AWD and measles, challenging the region’s already overstretched healthcare facilities. A malaria epidemic was declared in Burundi in March 2017. Since January, more than 2.2 million cases and 1,000 deaths have been reported. A significant reduction of donor funding to Burundi’s health budget limits its capacity to deal with the epidemic. Borderlands in the Horn and Great Lakes are at sustained risk for further outbreaks, taking into account current displacement and migration routes, the presence of vulnerable people in marginalized areas with limited access to basic services, and an increasing refugee population. Somalia is facing an Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD)/Cholera outbreak in 12 of its 18 regions affecting more than 45,400 and killing 738 people since the beginning of the year. In Ethiopia, over 35,000 AWD cases have been reported in six regions, of which nearly 90 per cent in Somali region.
Discovery of Ebola in DRC, bordering the Central African Republic, could have catastrophic impacts in the region if the disease affects refugees and IDPs. As of 13 June, five confirmed cases and three probable and one suspected case have been reported. Of the confirmed and probable cases, four survived and four died, resulting in a case fatality rate of 50 per cent.

Record unmet financial requirements are putting lives at risk. Refugee appeals are particularly underfunded, which is hampering the response. Overall funding requirements have increased to US$8.3 billion, which is less than 25 per cent funded, with US$6.3 billion unmet needs. Funding requirements increased after a revision of the Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and the South Sudan Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), and the launch of the Kenya Flash Appeal. The Ethiopia Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) may need revision to address increased needs following the completion of the ongoing assessment.

The humanitarian space continues to be constrained across the region due to insecurity and bureaucratic impediments, especially in South Sudan, Somalia and Sudan. Between January and April 2017, there were 213 access incidents in South Sudan with at least eight humanitarian convoys attacked and 15 staff killed. Four aid workers were declared persona non grata, expelled or deported from South Sudan in November and December 2016, including the Country Director of Norwegian Refugee Council and another senior staff member. During that period, there were also reports of aid workers being denied access to areas in Western Bahr el-Ghazal and Western Equatoria. Attacks by armed and listed terrorist groups, including al-Shabaab along the Kenya and Somalia border have increased. Since the beginning of May, it is estimated that at least 30 people have been killed in such incidents, including two INGO staff. In Sudan, humanitarian access to conflict-affected areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states remains limited due to a lack of agreement between the Government and nonstate armed groups on cross-line humanitarian access and aid provision modalities to those areas, despite the unilateral cessation of hostilities. Access remains constrained in eastern DRC due to insecurity and budget challenges.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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