How conflict and erratic weather hurt individual rights in the Horn

Sunday April 02 2023
A camp for internally displaced people Ethiopia

A camp for internally displaced people near the city of Gode in Ethiopia. Countries in the Horn of Africa are facing a double burden of providing security for citizens while battling effects of erratic changes in weather. PHOTO | EDUARDO SOTERAS | AFP

By The EastAfrican

Countries in the Horn of Africa are facing a double burden of providing security for citizens while battling effects of erratic changes in weather.

This week, rights watchdog Amnesty International said conflict and drought, have combined to increase the number of people marginalised, poor and unprotected.

The State of the World’s Human Rights Report for 2023 says countries like Kenya in the Horn have failed to address extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and police brutality.

Read: Mobile clinics follow IDPs in Somalia

But it also depicts a wider problem of rights violations caused by armed conflict, worsened by continual drought in the Horn. The region faced general problems like the rest of the world; emerging from Covid-19 pandemic, impact of Russia-Ukraine conflict on basic commodities and general insecurity.

But for much of Africa, these challenges disproportionately affected the most marginalised and led to rising inequality, Amnesty International says.


Structural barriers

“The challenges were exacerbated by the failure of many governments to address structural barriers to and the underlying causes of, the non-fulfilment of the rights to food, health, social security, housing and water – such as socioeconomic inequalities and low public expenditure on health and social protection. The challenges disproportionately affected the most marginalised in all regions,” the report said.

Read: Food, security likely to dominate AU summit

Last year was African Union’s Year of Nutrition, but extreme weather conditions triggered malnutrition in several countries in the region.

“In Somalia, severe drought led to a surge in malnutrition cases, while floods in Nigeria precipitated an outbreak of waterborne diseases, killing hundreds. Economic crises meant 97 percent of the population of Afghanistan were living in poverty, up from 47 percent in 2020, and people in Sri Lanka experienced serious shortages in food, fuel, medicine and other essential items.

“Governments must take immediate measures to protect individuals and communities against the risks and impacts of climate change and extreme weather conditions, including by seeking international assistance and cooperation to take sufficient climate adaptation and mitigation measures,” it adds.

Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, will need more than $2.68 billion to support key sectoral needs in the next four months, a result of drought in the Horn of Africa.

Read: Child marriages soar in drought-hit Ethiopia

Regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on Wednesday last week raised the appeal for urgent humanitarian response to supply basic needs such as water, food and pasture to save those affected by drought.

Lingering effects

Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, the Executive Secretary of IGAD said the prolonged drought, marked by five consecutive below-average rainfall seasons has crippled ability of the region to provide sufficient food to its population.

“The consequences of the drought are terrible in some pastoralist and agropastoralist areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, and has resulted to severe water and pasture shortages, one million displaced people, over 10 million livestock and wildlife deaths, reduced crop and livestock production, all of which are increasing food insecurity,” he said.

IGAD says that despite heavy rainfall recently recorded, there are signs the season might be shorter than normal, bringing lingering effects in the three.

Read: Paradox of feeding Africa’s starving millions

“Forty-seven million people are highly food insecure and some risk starvation. Some 70 percent of these live in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. We ask the international community to help prevent a major humanitarian disaster by committing resources to save lives and livelihoods in the short-term, and investing in resilience building in the medium and long-term,” said Dr Workneh.

Most affected

Somalia is the most affected and needs $1.6 billion to provide food and non-food items to the drought affected communities and Internally Displaced People in the next four months whereas Kenya requires $ 378 million to provide food, water, and vaccination to the affected counties until October 2023.

IGAD’s report indicates Ethiopia needs $710 million to provide support to key sectoral needs until August this year.

Resource poverty was hurt more by the bad weather. But also, Tanzania was accused of evicting Maasai from land meant to develop tourism sites. Amnesty says Dar may have violated the rights of indigenous communities.

Sometimes the bad weather conditions were worsened by government operations. For example, in South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal province, poor spatial planning and infrastructure maintenance worsened the impact of floods that destroyed thousands of houses.

Reporting by Amina Wako and Anthony Kitimo