Funds to help cushion 12 million against drought

In an effort to buttress an estimated 12 million people in the Horn of Africa against the effects of recurring drought, the European Commission (EC) has made available 30 million euros (US$47.3 million) to fund disaster preparedness projects in seven countries in the region.

At the same time, Kenya, one of the intended beneficiaries, reported a gradual deterioration of food security in the northern, eastern and coastal areas of the country because of below-normal short rains during the last three months of 2007.

Areas most at risk of acute food and livelihood shortages include the districts of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Tana River, which are mainly arid or semi-arid and prone to frequent drought, according to a Kenyan government food security assessment report published on 17 March.

"The human tragedy in the Horn of Africa continues to get our full attention," Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said when he announced the EC's decision to allocate the humanitarian funding for Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda in Brussels on 17 March.

"Humanitarian aid is mainly about emergency response and saving lives but with this regional decision, the Commission has stepped up its focus on disaster preparedness and risk reduction, with the aim of increasing people's resilience," he said, adding that the aid would benefit mainly nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists who are often the worst affected.

The money would be used on cross-border drought-mitigating initiatives in the region, where adverse weather conditions often transcend national boundaries, affecting mostly pastoralists.

Projects to benefit from the financial support include those targeting the preservation of critical water points and providing water maintenance equipment. Others include formation of community networks, support for traditional structures, such as camel trains to carry water, improved access to unused range lands and support for early warning systems and institutions responsible for disaster prevention and preparedness.

Vaccination campaigns for humans as well as livestock, delivery of primary healthcare, including mother-and-child healthcare, and improved sanitation are the other priorities.

In February, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) reported that poor rains and high food prices would lead to increased malnutrition rates in Djibouti, especially among poor urban households and pastoralist communities.


Photo: Mike Pflanz/IRIN
Pastoralists in the Horn of Africa often lose their livestock to frequent droughts


In Ethiopia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported in its February update that food security in the southwestern Somali Region had deteriorated after a dry spell. Severe water shortages and very poor pasture were projected to continue until the onset of the long rains in mid-April, with more than a million people affected.

Several districts in Ethiopia's southern Oromiya region were also experiencing rising levels of food insecurity, loss of livestock and severe water shortages, according to OCHA.

In Uganda, the minister in charge of disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru, told reporters in Kampala on 8 March that an estimated 1.5 million people in the northeast needed food aid because of the prevailing drought that had hit them even before they could recover from the effects of flooding in 2007.

In Somalia, humanitarian agencies have estimated that two million people are in need of urgent aid.

jn/mw