Drought conference misses fundraising target

Saturday May 27 2023

A herdsboy walks on a dry land in Samburu County, Kenya on July 15,2021. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NMG


Countries in the Horn of Africa will have to look elsewhere for a quicker response to drought and other weather-related shocks currently hitting the region, after a pledging conference in New York this week failed to raise the needed $7 billion.

The United Nations, alongside governments of the US, UK, Italy and Qatar had organised the conference to address the plight of more than 36 million people facing hunger in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

But the high-level pledging event to support the humanitarian response in the Horn of Africa only raised $2.4 billion worth of pledges, leaving a huge funding gap to catch up on the budgetary estimates to cover for the needs in the Horn.

Some of the main donors such as the US pledged $524 million, most of which will be channelled through the USAid and UN agencies. The UK pledged $176 million split among Somalia ($59 million), Ethiopia ($51 million), Sudan ($25 million), South Sudan ($23.3 million), Uganda ($8.6 Million) and Kenya ($7.15 million).

Read: UN chief urges 'immediate' funding for Horn of Africa

But the result of the pledges was being described as shameful, even by some of the donors themselves. Waseem Ahmad, CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, said the charity group will give $18.6 million, topping some of the co-organisers.


“It is a shameful that much of the world continues to turn a blind eye to the terrible suffering in the Horn of Africa.

‘‘People in the region are incredibly resilient but nobody can cope with five consecutive failed rainy seasons and the destruction of their livelihoods,” Ahmad said on Thursday, a day after the conference.

“As global leaders meet in New York, families in Somalia are making impossible choices about which child gets to eat today. People’s lives are at stake at this conference.

The current drought, the fifth in a row for the Horn has meant that the region needs emergency food, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, and other critical assistance for the third year now.

“This is a collective responsibility. This is a global problem that requires all of us. This is not one where an African solution to an African problem will work – this is a global problem,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield in a speech at the conference.

Read: Drought kills livestock in southern Ethiopia

“It’s a global problem that requires a global solution. But I want to be clear: right now, the global community is simply not meeting the moment.”

In fact, ever since the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) first gave out an alert on drought in 2020, the UN says it has never achieved targets of any funding appeals, even though those appeals have been jointly promoted by host countries in the Horn.

Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s Resilience Team Leader for East Africa, says the Horn was always prone to natural shocks and hazards. And even as it looks to get back to normal rainfall season, that may also still bring other danger.

“Resuming of rain does not mean that people will recover very quickly. For pastoral communities who still have remaining livestock assets, it will take a couple of years to recover. Those who have lost all their assets and were forced to move from rural areas to urban centres very rarely resume pastoral activities. These people need assistance and social safety nets and ultimately to change entirely their livelihoods.

Some 2.3 million people have been displaced across the region in search of basic services, water and food. In addition, the UN agency said in a bulletin that displacements also raise possibility of violence and insecurity.

“In short, the drought triggered a livelihood crisis that has grown into a multifaceted humanitarian disaster including displacement, health issues, malnutrition and security crisis that has long-term effects on people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Read: How conflict, erratic weather hurt rights in the Horn

Blamed on climate change, critics say the Horn is suffering in spite of contributing just 0.1 percent of the greenhouse gases, blamed for causing climate change. In the Horn, where most communities relied on livestock for food and livelihood, some 13.2 million animals have died, FAO says, which also explains the rising level of malnutrition.

On Thursday, Mercy Corps, a charity group involved drought adaptation programmes in the Horn said the funding gaps must be addressed as an emergency.

Mercy Corps Deputy Director for Africa, Allison Huggins, said in a statement that the pledges from donors so far must be disbursed quickly but it won’t be enough.

“However, we take it with a grain of salt because many of these pledges were just confirmations of existing financing commitments and remain insufficient in light of the region's urgent and expanding needs and the many lives still hanging in the balance,” he said.

“The people of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia contribute less than 0.1 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are suffering the consequences of human-induced climate change. This is one of the biggest climate injustices of our time, with today’s decisions impacting generations to come.”

Somalia especially is expected to receive heavier than normal rainfall this season in a break from the trend of droughts, according to various warning systems in the region. That is likely to cause floods and further damage. FAO says soils are not yet ready to absorb most water from the heavy rains, having developed hard pans over the last three years.