NAIROBI — Four consecutive failed rain seasons combined with a lethargic response to appeal for humanitarian support could push millions of people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia to the brink of starvation, the United Nations agencies, and food security experts said in a joint statement on Thursday.
IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC), the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), and the World Food Program (WFP) said the most severe drought in the Horn of African region in the last four decades may not subside soon, with the October-December rains expected to be depressed.
An uptick in hunger mortality is now occurring across the region, and there is increasing concern that more extreme food insecurity outcomes-marked by extremely critical acute levels of malnutrition and high levels of hunger-related mortality could emerge in the remainder of the year, the organizations said.
Currently, about 17.8 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia require emergency food support to avert acute malnutrition or starvation, the agencies said.
The prolonged dry spell coupled with desert locust invasion, COVID-19 pandemic disruptions, civil strife, and skyrocketing food and fuel prices linked to the Ukraine crisis, has worsened food insecurity in the region, according to the UN.
The number of severely malnourished children admitted to health facilities for treatment rose significantly in the first quarter of 2022 in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, as drought escalated.
At present, the agencies said the level of humanitarian assistance is being outpaced by the scale and severity of food scarcity and malnutrition in the region, with the situation expected to improve in 2023.
The drought-stricken communities in the arid parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia require urgent food and nutritional support, provision of clean water, and sanitation to avert the loss of lives. The agencies said the humanitarian assistance should be scaled up until mid-2023 to prevent full-blown famine, mass fatalities, and loss of livelihoods in the region.