Horn of Africa Crisis: 2011-2012

East Africa facing ‘double-dip’ hunger emergency as poor rains, crop shortages and conflict threaten recovery from 2011 crisis

East Africa is facing a ‘double-dip’ hunger crisis that could plunge millions of people back into emergency levels of hunger and malnutrition, Save the Children has warned.

Early warning systems and the aid agency’s own analysis suggests that unless immediate preventative action is taken, any improvements in the situation following last year’s catastrophic food crisis could be wiped out by poor rains, crop shortages and difficulties in reaching conflict-affected areas.

Farmland and livestock across East Africa was devastated by the 2011 crisis, which claimed tens of thousands of lives, but a huge relief effort, though late, followed by good rains in the autumn saw levels of hunger begin to drop.

That tentative progress is now under threat from a poor rainy season, combined with funding shortages leading to possible delays to lifesaving work. The aid agency says there is little time to act to protect millions of people from falling into hunger.

Matt Croucher, Save the Children’s East Africa humanitarian director, said: “Families in East Africa are facing the possibility of a second summer of extreme hunger. There is a very real chance that poor rains, crop failures and conflict will mean that the recovery that began in the autumn was a false dawn, and the region will experience a double-dip hunger crisis. Decisive action could prevent a repeat of last year’s crisis; we must prepare for the worst, not just hope for the best.”

In Kenya, forecasts of poor rains in the arid north-east are prompting fears of rapid deterioration in food security. In Ethiopia, rains are already late in some areas, leading to water shortages and the failure of key root crops. And in Somalia, millions of people left vulnerable by last year’s crisis face starvation unless immediate funding is provided for emergency relief programmes.

The combined outlook for East Africa is now so serious that food security experts put the odds of repeat of rain failure on the scale of 2011 at one in three. Despite similar predictions of widespread hunger last year, significant funding was not made available until a full-blown crisis was underway. Research carried out by Save the Children and Oxfam found the delay cost thousands of lives and millions of dollars in aid money.

“The world must not ignore early warnings again,” Croucher said. “G8 countries will have hunger on their agenda when they meet next month- they must lead the way in not let another crisis develop after being warned so clearly.”

Save the Children is working in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and has reached over three million people with life-saving assistance since last year's hunger crisis. The agency is already responding to poor rainfall predictions. In Somalia, Save the Children is providing emergency food, shelter and sanitation for more than 400,000 people. In Ethiopia, the charity is responding with nutrition, water/sanitation, livestock support and child protection programmes. In Kenya, we are feeding the most vulnerable children and supporting the livelihoods of people in affected areas.

Humanitarian Bulletin Eastern Africa No.5, 27 April - 11 May 2012


  • Major food security assessment launched by WFP in Djibouti
  • Relief food needs to increase significantly in parts of Ethiopia
  • Over 100,000 now affected by floods in Kenya
  • Over 7,000 Congolese seek refuge in Rwanda
  • Rains in Somalia now expected to be 60-85 per cent of average

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit .

New jobs help Kenyans to fight hunger, food shortages

The people of Namelok in Kenya's Amboseli region have had to learn to adapt to change. They are ethnic Maasai and traditionally keep livestock, but successive droughts have decimated many of their animals, so they broke with tradition and now cultivate tomatoes, maize and beans.

To hear their story in person, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark visited the area ahead of the launch of the Africa Human Development Report on 15 May. "I think across Africa a big answer to fighting hunger and food shortages is empowering women farmers," Helen Clark said after meeting the women.

43-year-old Motialo Kiserian earned a living trading goats at the local market after her husband left her with four children to feed. But the income is unreliable and realistically she can only earn around 50 dollars a month. Now, she and the other members of her women's group have leased 2 acres of land with the help of a small local charity, and they've already had one successful harvest, which earned them around 500 dollars -- given to the women in the group who needed the money most.

"We would like to farm more arable land and do this on a bigger scale," says Motialo. "And we want to learn better agricultural practices, so that we can become a society that can sustain itself."

The women's farm lies at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the natural springs that water it are fed by the mountain's glaciers. That water doesn't just support the region's farmers but also a biodiverse ecosystem including the elephants that attract visitors from all over the world to the nearby Amboseli Park. Tourism is a major earner of foreign exchange for Kenya and the community has recognised that conservation can also bring economic benefits.

The Satao Elerai Conservacy is a 65,000 acre wildlife corridor that has been set aside by the community to protect the environment, and provide an income from tourism. A luxury camp built in the Conservancy pays dividends to the Maasai landowners, and the money has sunk a much-needed borehole and is building a school.

That's not all, explains Elerai Conservation Secretary Jonah Marapash, who comes from a village near the camp. "People get employment," says Marapash, "they get fuel to run this generator whereby people will get water, in addition to that we are getting a lot of revenue, whereby we facilitate bursaries, we facilitate even emergencies if someone want medical, and other related assistance required by the community."

"We're in an area with incredible conservation values," Helen Clark noted while she was visiting the Conservancy, "but it's also an area where people have lived for millennia. So the trick is to find a way that the people can live, that human development can go ahead, while the nature is also protected. And I think that this village is very committed to finding that way."

The ultimate aim is for communities like this one to be able to capitalise on their resources better, so that in times of drought they have other sources of income and don't have sell their land and livelihood -- and so that they can be successful farmers, whatever the weather.

Life on the margins of Dadaab

ADAAB, 15 May 2012 (IRIN) - For new arrivals to the world’s largest refugee complex, in eastern Kenya, life is particularly difficult.

In October 2011, when thousands of people were fleeing famine and conflict in Somalia, Kenyan authorities halted the registration of refugees arriving in Dadaab, citing deteriorating security conditions. Some 4,500 Somalis have since come to the complex.

“We get access to food rations but what we receive is never enough, and sometimes we don’t get any,” Saney Farah, 39, an unregistered asylum-seeker who arrived at Dadaab’s Ifo camp about three months ago, told IRIN. “During the first four weeks of my arrival, I did not receive any food. Whenever I went to the distribution centre I was told that my token serial number was not in the manifest.”

When new refugees reach Dadaab, they stay with fellow refugees in the outskirts of the complex. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) then takes their details and provides them with a waiting card with which they can access food rations and health care. The refugee ration card is only issued after full registration with Kenya's Department of Refugee Affairs entitling the refugees to shelter and other assistance.

Those who do not have waiting cards, such as Kadija Aden, a mother of four, face significant problems. “I never thought it would be so difficult here in Dadaab. We are caught between scorching sun and flooding rain under tents that prevent none of them,” said Kadija at the Kambioos extension camp.

“I feel less important since I am not fully registered and I am worried for the future of my children.”

Unregistered asylum-seekers such as Kadija often miss out on essential services such as vaccination as they have mingled among other refugees in the complex.

Regarding the resumption of registration, Emmanuel Nyabera, the UNHCR spokesperson in Kenya, said: “The commissioner of refugee affairs indicated about two weeks ago that registration will start soon but we are yet to get a date.”


In a March report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Kenyan government to re-open refugee reception centres in the border town of Liboi, which were closed in 2007, to ensure that newly-arriving refugees are screened for security purposes and safely transported to Dadaab, instead of suspending registration or encouraging refugees to return to Somalia.

The government has been calling for the return of Somali refugees to areas in Somalia under the control of Kenyan defence forces there, citing security and environmental concerns, noted the HRW report, which said Somalia remains unsafe for such returns.

The Kenyan army has since October 2011 been engaged in an intervention in Somalia targeting Al-Shabab militants blamed for a series of cross-border attacks and abductions as well as grenade explosions in Dadaab.

Originally intended for 90,000 people, the Dadaab complex now hosts more than 463,000 refugees with chronic overcrowding, risk of disease and seasonal floods among the challenges, according to UNHCR.

Attacks in Dadaab

While the high refugee numbers put pressure on the complex, notes a March report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Kenya’s incursion into Somalia has led to a sharp rise in attacks by Al-Shabab sympathizers in Dadaab, prompting a harsh response and widespread allegations of abuse by the Kenyan police.

“The insecurity has placed several constraints on the operations of NGOs in the complex, reducing assistance to life-saving services. Sexual violence has become endemic, and police abuse and inaction commonplace and resented by the refugees,” said the report which called for a coordinated response from UNHCR, the Kenyan government and the international community “to prevent this volatile stew from erupting into deadly violence”.

“Refugee frustration and fear of an abusive police presence could lead to the radicalization of the refugee population, which would be an unfortunate consequence for both refugees and Kenyans,” added the report.


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UN Deputy Humanitarian Chief Catherine Bragg addresses continuing effects of drought and highlights humanitarian progress made in Somalia and Kenya

(Nairobi/ New York, 12 May 2012): UN Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator today concluded a five-day mission to Somalia and Kenya to gauge progress in humanitarian efforts to respond to the consequences of the 2011 drought.

During her visit to Mogadishu, on 8 and 9 May, ASG Bragg visited internally displaced persons' (IDP) settlements and met with government officials, key humanitarian actors and stakeholders, including Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, and some members of the diplomatic corps. The ASG urged the TFG and the international community to keep the crisis in Somalia high on its agenda.

"Famine conditions are no longer present in Somalia, largely due to the effective delivery of aid and the good harvest at the beginning of the year, but the humanitarian situation remains critical," said ASG Bragg. "We must build on the fragile gains. The number of people who need food aid decreased by 1.5 million, but 2.5 million people are still in crisis and that is a very large number."

According to Ms. Bragg, a key focus now is on helping people regain their livelihoods, which is crucial to building resilience to future droughts and other shocks. "I urge all stakeholders to recommit to protect the most vulnerable and ensure that their basic needs are met."

"The local and international aid workers collaborating in Somalia have proven they can make a difference," she noted. "We are strengthening coordination with key actors, including Turkey and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is vital to ensure that all of our resources are used efficiently for the benefit of the Somali people."

In Kenya, from 10-12 May, the ASG commended the Government for its commitment to strengthen the resilience of local communities in drought-affected areas.

“I have just returned from meeting families in Isiolo in north-central Kenya who were affected by the 2011 drought crisis,” said ASG Bragg. “I am very impressed by the ongoing national initiatives to build the communities’ resilience to recurring drought, but we are not out of the woods yet.”

The 2011 drought emergency left 3.8 million in need of food assistance in Kenya. While this figure has improved, an estimated 2.2 million people continue to require food assistance of which 250,000 people are classified as still being in crisis.

While in Nairobi, Ms. Bragg met with senior Government officials as well as humanitarian and development partners to take stock of the humanitarian challenges in the country. She also discussed OCHA’s support to the Government’s commitment to strengthening drought resilience and preparedness.

She also visited an IDP camp in Chumvi at the outskirts of Isiolo. While acknowledging the significant strides that have been made to address inter-communal conflicts in Isiolo, she urged the Government and local authorities to ensure the protection of IDPs and work with communities to find durable solutions. In addition to thousands of people affected from the recent inter-communal conflict in Isiolo, there are over 15,000 families displaced by the 2007-2008 post-election violence awaiting resettlement.

On her last day in Kenya, the ASG visited a demonstration site for improving agricultural practices targeting people living in arid lands. "I am impressed by the community's longer term vision, dealing not only with immediate food needs but also planning their children's future by selling part of the produce to send them to school," she said.

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