Life-Saving Aid Comes as Historic Drought, Fear of Famine Grips the Region Amid Global Food Security Crisis
An unprecedented drought in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia—part of a region known as the Horn of Africa—is pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation. More than 18 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, primarily as a result of the drought. In response, Administrator Samantha Power announced today that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing nearly $1.3 billion in additional critical humanitarian and development assistance to help stave off mass starvation and deaths. Many families have yet to fully recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last regional drought in 2017, or the last Famine in Somalia in 2011.
Unlike in years past, today’s historic drought and hunger crisis is being exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The cost of food, fuel, and fertilizer has skyrocketed, threatening to drive up world hunger on an unprecedented scale, particularly in the Horn of Africa.
The region has experienced four consecutive drought seasons and a fifth is forecast for later this year, further extending the suffering of millions across the region who face the threat of starvation. USAID is urging other donors to join in scaling up assistance to save lives and alleviate suffering across the region.
Today’s announcement includes a nearly $1.18 billion surge in humanitarian assistance that will allow USAID partners to provide critical aid for millions of people across the region. This funding includes:
- Emergency food to respond to the threat of famine – USAID will provide emergency food, including sorghum – a more readily available grain than hard-to-import wheat – yellow split peas, and vegetable oil for families living in areas where local markets are not open. Cash for families to purchase food staples from local markets will also be provided, supporting the local economy.
- Nutritional support to prevent and treat child malnutrition – An estimated 7 million children are suffering from severe malnutrition across the Horn of Africa, with hundreds of deaths already reported in the most affected countries such as Somalia. To prevent further loss of life, USAID will provide community-level screening to support early detection and identification of cases of severe acute malnutrition in children. In detected cases, USAID will supply a specialized peanut-based nutritional supplement to treat malnourished children at mobile outreach clinics in remote areas and at hospitals; Super Cereal Plus, a corn-soya blend food supplement designed to make porridge, will be provided to malnourished women and children for use at home.
- Farming and agricultural support to prevent crop and livestock losses – Four consecutive failed rain seasons have spurred millions of livestock deaths across the region, devastating livelihoods for families who depend on crops and livestock for food to survive. To keep livestock alive and healthy, USAID funding will provide veterinary services, animal fodder, and supplements to allow animals to continue breeding despite deteriorating conditions. Today’s funding will also support livestock destocking to reduce strain on overgrazed land, generating income for herders while making food resources available for communities facing starvation. In addition, this new assistance will provide farmers with seeds, tools, and training in drought-resistant farming methods, water conservation, and climate adaptation to increase crop productivity amid worsening drought conditions.
- Urgent health support, clean water to prevent disease outbreaks often prevalent during drought – USAID partners will conduct disease outbreak investigations to identify potential diseases such as cholera and measles, often exacerbated when people’s immune systems are compromised from malnutrition. This is critical in averting mass deaths among malnourished communities. USAID is also deploying mobile health and nutrition teams to provide vaccines and treatment. As the risk for infectious disease increases when water sources are contaminated, USAID is providing water, sanitation, and hygiene support in drought-affected areas to include: safe, potable water through water trucking; repaired water boreholes, community wells and distribution systems; materials to test and treat contaminated water; and technical support for community-led experts responsible for managing water and sanitation infrastructure.
- Support to protect women and children from higher risk of violence – Families across the Horn of Africa face desperate choices to survive. In Kenya for example, women and girls are having to walk up to 18 miles – more than three times longer than before – to access water, leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence. USAID is providing medical supplies, healthcare, and psychosocial support for survivors of gender-based violence. This support includes specialized training for healthcare staff to mitigate future gender-based violence, alongside the creation of safe spaces and counseling for women and girls with an emphasis on communities displaced by the drought, as well as child protection services and family reunification assistance.
Today’s funding also includes $90 million, subject to congressional approval, in development assistance for the Horn of Africa region, specifically Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. With this additional funding, USAID will invest in activities such as scaling drought-tolerant crops, mitigating post-harvest loss and waste, and supporting social protection and safety nets.
This surge of assistance builds on USAID’s ongoing efforts to alleviate the suffering of millions of people across the Horn of Africa. In Fiscal Year 2022 alone, the United States is providing nearly $1.86 billion – the greatest share of all donor funding for this crisis to date by far. But, it will not be enough. The United States has stepped up to meet the majority of immediate funding gaps to save lives now, but we need other donors to step in behind us to help prevent significant loss of life, particularly in Somalia where the risk of famine is increasing, and to meet expected humanitarian needs well into 2023.
A portion of today’s funding for the Horn of Africa is included in the Ukraine supplemental and is part of the $2.76 billion in USAID assistance announced by President Joe Biden on June 27, 2022. It is immediately being programmed in FY 2022 to address the most dire impacts of the global food security crisis through direct food assistance and related health, nutrition, protection, and water, sanitation, and hygiene services in countries with high levels of acute food insecurity, reliance on Russian and Ukrainian imports, and vulnerability to price shocks.