Climate change, conflict and economic instability have left 27 million people facing acute food shortage in the Horn of Africa.
A further 20 million risk falling into this category if humanitarian assistance is not mobilised in the next few months, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) warned in submissions it made at its annual disaster Resilience Share Fair meeting in Nairobi last week.
Just like in 2018, the 2019 below-average rains, conflict and economic crisis continue to drive food insecurity in the region, with Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan expected to remain among countries facing severe food crisis in the world.
Compared with last year, updated projections for 2019 as of July indicated that food insecurity levels will likely be higher in South Sudan and Sudan, remain stable in Ethiopia and Uganda, and be lower in Kenya and Somalia.
Delegates at the Igad meeting called for cross-border co-operation for the movement of food from the food-abundance regions to scarcity areas. The German development agency GIZ, has already offered $6 million for mitigation.
The Resilience Share Fair is meant to disseminate resilience good practices and lessons learnt from the Igad region to increase knowledge on better preparedness and response to drought and other shocks affecting communities in the region.
Mahboub Maalim, Igad executive secretary said the region is getting hotter and drier and all the countries must work on building regional and cross-border resilience measures.
The worst-affected countries in 2018 in terms of acute food insecurity were Ethiopia (8.1 million), Sudan (6.2 million) and South Sudan (6.1 million).
In South Sudan, 59 per cent of the population, or six out of 10 people required urgent assistance to protect livelihoods, reduce food consumption gaps and malnutrition. In Somalia, more than one in five people (or 22 per cent of the population) were acutely food insecure.
Orey Sunya, director of technical services at the Kenya National Drought Management Authority said that vulnerability to climate change is a major threat to pastoralists giving the example of Kenya where 6 million pastoralists are food insecure and 600,000 are facing malnutrition. The pastoral system is characterised by high degree of mobility, guided by the need for access to grazing land and water without regard to state borders, and are mostly prone to conflict, animal disease and food insecurity.
However, none of the six East African Community partner states has signed African Union Convention on Cross-Border Co-operation, commonly known as the Niamey Convention.