Persistent food insecurity and livelihood crisis in the Horn of Africa
Over US$11 million required for agricultural assistance activities
26 April 2006, Rome -- Over 15 million people are at risk of losing their livelihoods due to the severe drought currently affecting countries in the Horn of Africa. Eight million of these people need emergency assistance of food and non-food aid, FAO announced today.
As part of the 2006 Consolidated Appeal for the Horn of Africa recently launched by the UN and its humanitarian partners, FAO is appealing for over US$11 million in funding to support its emergency-related agricultural activities in three of the affected countries -- Eritrea, Djibouti and Kenya. In addition, FAO is requesting US$11.6 million under the revised consolidated appeal for Somalia.
The appeal advocates support for the efforts of governments and the international humanitarian community to respond to this drought crisis. Key donors (Scandinavian countries, the European Community, Japan and the United States) have expressed their support for a regional approach that would address immediate and longer-term needs. The goal of FAO’s activities is to intervene strategically to save lives through livelihood-oriented relief and recovery.
Anne M. Bauer, Director, FAO Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division, underlined the need for more efforts to save both the lives and the livelihoods of pastoralists: “The support of the humanitarian community is essential. FAO, with the support of donors, will play a key role in helping these countries restore pastoral livelihoods and help vulnerable people meet their nutritional needs.”
Pastoralists at risk
Those most at risk are predominantly pastoralist or agropastoralist communities, which remain among the region’s poorest and most vulnerable due to successive shocks and structural problems. The most urgent consequence of the drought is the lack of water for human and animal consumption. Traditionally, pastoralists move their livestock over long distances to cope with seasonal fluctuations and drought effects. However, mobility is often limited by clan, ethnic, district and national conflicts and boundaries, making long-distance migration difficult.
Droughts in the Horn of Africa occur frequently (four in the last six years), due to poor rains, increased population pressure and environmental degradation. Current climatic trends indicate reduced rainfall in the Horn and East Africa for the foreseeable future.
Recent beneficial rains in most parts of the drought-affected areas of northern and eastern Kenya, southern and eastern Ethiopia and southern Somalia have improved water availability and given hope for improved pasture in the weeks ahead. However, the arrival of the rains is not the end of the problem. Many animals weakened by the drought will be particularly vulnerable to internal parasites and clostridial infections following the sudden flush of grass. Further livestock losses could occur.
Even assuming a period of normal rains, it will take years for some of the livestock herds and flocks to recover to levels that can provide their owners with a sustainable livelihood. Vulnerable communities, already suffering from years of drought and erratic and below normal rainfall patterns, will need continuing support and development assistance during these crucial years.
FAO’s assistance will focus on livestock health by de-worming and immunizing productive animals against contagious diseases, which will increase the animals’ chances of survival.
FAO will also help pastoralists receive better prices for those animals that can be sold. Emergency de-stocking will help to provide a fair price to farmers for their livestock. In some cases, animals will be slaughtered and the meat (fresh or dried) will be provided to feeding centres in the region. FAO will collaborate with non-governmental organizations, local governments and private institutions to draw on existing appropriate mechanisms to develop country-specific de-stocking plans and build on and support existing market structures.
FAO will also help provide fodder crop seeds for planting 300 hectares, which could produce over 5 000 tonnes of hay and dry matter to support a healthy livestock population in the region.
As a result of these interventions and by addressing the underlying causes of the chronic food insecurity, pastoralists should also be less vulnerable to future crises. As part of its longer-term development initiatives, FAO and its partners are working to help with water, sanitation, health, nutrition and education. FAO will facilitate the long-term sustainability of emergency interventions through community-based hands-on learning in farmer field schools.
With the support of the international community, an immediate response to this drought and food insecurity situation should enable vulnerable communities to survive the current crisis with their livelihoods intact and give them a more sustainable road to recovery.
Information Officer, FAO
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