Stakeholders call for united fight against challenges facing Horn of Africa

Wednesday October 19 2022
A pastoralist herds goats and sheep in Isiolo, northern Kenya.

A pastoralist herds goats and sheep in Isiolo, northern Kenya. Partners in the Horn of Africa have been urged to unite to fight common challenges facing the region and impacting communities.

By Rachel Kibui

Partners in the Horn of Africa have been urged to unite to fight common challenges facing the region and impacting communities. This was said last week during a virtual meeting in Nairobi, Kenya by regional stakeholders.

Currently, the region is facing one of the worst droughts in 40 years, leaving many people displaced and livestock lost. Loss of livestock affects the people around the Horn, as it is their primary source of income.

Over 18.5 million people are currently facing acute food shortage in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia alone. As the situation worsens, this number is anticipated to continue rising.

The region experiences other shocks and disasters, such as conflict, water shortage and disease outbreaks.

A convergence by stakeholders in the region on October 12, 2022 called for a multi-stakeholder approach towards building resilience to these shocks and ensuring sustainable solutions to the challenges being faced in the region.

The event, organised by the United States Aid for International Development (USAid) through the Horn of Africa Resilience Network (HoRN), drew participants from governments, the private sector and development partners.


Coordination platform

The HoRN serves as a coordination platform across Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The programme works towards building resilience in areas that are hit by recurrent crises in the dry lands. Its key objectives are to strengthen regional and cross-border collaboration and improve evidence-based learning to inform regional, countries and USAid initiatives.

This year's HoRN learning event coincided with the ongoing acute drought following failed rains in many areas, with some experiencing minimal rainfall.

Severe drought

In Somalia, for example, nearly half of the country's estimated population, which accounts for more than 7.8 million people, is impacted by the ongoing severe drought. Additionally, 1 million people have been displaced since the beginning of the drought in 2021.

"The coping capacity of the most vulnerable has vastly reduced due to the impact of four consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, sharp increases in food prices and conflict," said Laura Kate Bennison, Danwadaag Consortium Coordinator of the International Organisation for Migration in Somalia.

"Malnutrition that has resulted from the droughts has led to the loss of children in Somalia," she added.

With the humanitarian situation deteriorating over the recent months especially in the South West State Bay region, migration to urban areas has been on the rise. Cities such as Mogadishu and Baidoa have received about 100,000 people displaced by the drought in 2022 alone. Most affected are women and children, who account for 83 per cent of the displaced persons.

Most of the 2.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in urban and peri-urban areas. Migration and subsequent urbanisation have caused sharp growth of key cities including Kismayo, Baidoa and Mogadishu. This has led to a lot of strain on city systems, resource competition and limited absorption capacity.

Armed conflicts

In her remarks, Amy Beeler, the Office Director of Economic Growth for USAid Uganda, said that armed conflicts and insecurity in the Horn of Africa amongst the pastoralist communities such as the Karamojong in Uganda, the Turkana in Kenya and the Topoza in South Sudan are negatively impacting development efforts in these areas.

The key drivers of the problem are water and pasture scarcity and illicit firearm trafficking among pastoralist groups. She called on the affected countries and bilateral USAid missions to incorporate conflict resolution and address the drivers of these conflicts across the agency's interventions.

"There are also opportunities that can be tapped to build sustainable livelihoods in the region, including learning from regional interventions which are specific to particular countries," she added.

With an example of Uganda's Karamoja region, Ms Beeler said a study revealed that 70 per cent of livestock is sold in the Juba market. This, she added, pointed to the direction that there are opportunities to leverage market systems across the borders and lead to a reduction in the drivers of conflict along the borders.

Community involvement

Mitigation against these shocks also calls for community involvement at household level and to build their capacities rather than only focusing on public and private institutions and agencies, she said.

Recently, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) established an institution dedicated to early response. Dubbed the IGAD Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development (ICPALD), its mission is to ensure IGAD member states sustainably generate wealth and employment through livestock and complementary livelihood resources development in arid and semi-arid areas of the IGAD region.

Acting USAID Kenya and East Africa resilience team leader, Dr Ernest Njoroge, said the multi-sectorial expertise which the event attracted was commendable, adding that it had what it takes to address the current humanitarian challenges facing the region. He challenged participants to provide leadership in applying what they learned to strengthen coordination and partnership.

Dr Njoroge further called upon the team to provide critical evidence on resilience, engage the private sector on risk management financing and work with governments and communities in ensuring local ownership of resilience programming.