Horn of Africa facing fresh food shortage

Thursday May 13 2021

A family trudges back home on the borders of Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan in 2019, after escaping drought. PHOTO | FILE


The Horn of Africa region is staring at food shortages after the delayed start of the long rains in some countries and below-average rainfall in others.

The UN and the government of Somalia have jointly declared drought in the country after officials determined that 80 percent of Somalia had received little rainfall. Usually, much of the Horn considers March to May as a planting season.

However, projections by the Famine Early Warnings Systems Network and the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies indicate that the situation is likely to get worse as we get into May down to September if the weather situation does not change.

“In eastern Africa, worse outcomes are expected through May 2021 across much of the region (North East Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia — including the restive Tigray region) attributed to conflict and displacement, long term macroeconomic challenges, the economic impacts of Covid-19, multiple weather shocks and the desert locust upsurge,” the IFRC Food Insecurity and Hunger for Africa bulletin says.

A situational report by the Federal Government of Somalia and humanitarian partners said the country is experiencing moderate to severe drought and warned that the population there was on the “brink of human catastrophe.”

Somalia’s Humanitarian Response Plan requires $1.09 billion to assist about four million people, and more than three million who are in acute need.


In Somalia, drought is almost routine, appearing once in every two years. Since 1990, it has experienced more than 30 climate-related hazards including 12 droughts and 19 floods.

This is three times the number of climate-related hazards experienced between 1970 and 1990.

In Kenya, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Peter Munya announced on April 14 that the country will not be facing an acute maize shortage at least until later in the year, saying “We will have a surplus of at least 11.8 million bags by the end of May.”

An assessment by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group in February puts the population at risk at over 1.4 million people who are in need of urgent life-saving support.

IFRC notes that in South Sudan, 60 per cent of the population (7.2 million people) are expected to face acute food insecurity between April and July.

“This includes 2.4 million in emergency situations and 108,000 people in catastrophic situations,” the federation states.

Ethiopia, just like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Somalia is facing one of its worst locust outbreaks in 25 years rendering crop production, food security and millions of lives at the dire risk of starvation.

Tigray region is particularly in an “extremely grave” quoting remarks made by the High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi who alongside a high ranking team of UN officials toured the region in February to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground.

“People need all possible forms of support; food items, non-food items, medicine, water, shelter and access to banks and telecommunication systems,” Grandi told journalists in Addis Ababa.

He added that though the government of Ethiopia had reported on some progress being made in improving the security situation in the region, isolated incidents are still taking place resulting in looting, various kinds of violence including rape and the unfortunate loss of six humanitarian workers.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed the need for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to end the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crisis in the country including the growing “risk of famine” in Tigray region.

This year, drought conditions are expected to increase displacement and have a lasting impact on livelihoods and food security outcomes with at least 3.4 million people projected to be affected by drought conditions 380,000 are expected to be displaced by the end of this year.

“The cost of inaction is far too dire and the time to take action is now. Urgent and immediate collective action, including scaling-up of response and funding, is needed now to mitigate a full-scale disaster,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator Adam Abdelmoula.