Nairobi, Kenya – At least 23 million people in the Horn of Africa have been driven into high levels of acute food insecurity and millions displaced due to unrelenting drought not seen in decades, which may deepen over the next few months.
The UN agency said this year’s March-May rainy season was the driest on record in the last 70 years.
In terms of duration and severity, the agency said the 2020 to 2022 drought has surpassed the horrific droughts from 2010 to 2011 and 2016 to 2017.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network estimated the number of people in need of food assistance in eastern Africa to be 70 percent higher than during the 2016-17 food crisis.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that the drought will continue to deepen in months ahead, with catastrophic consequences.
Somalia, the most affected country, has seen 24,000 of its citizens seek shelter at Kenya’s Dadaab camps by the end of September, Boris Cheshirkov, spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said last week.
Cheshirkov said more than 80,000 arrived in the camp complex during the past two years, fleeing the ongoing insecurity in the country in addition to severe drought.
The increased number of refugees has forced many to construct makeshift shelters along the outskirts of the camp as available space in the camp is running out.
The situation has been worsened by an outbreak of cholera that has so far affected over 350 people since the end of October.
With four consecutive failed rainy seasons and a predicted below-average fifth, the situation is worsening across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, with severe acute malnutrition cases spiraling.
The International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 7.5 million children under the age of 5 in the region are currently suffering from acute malnutrition, with more than 1.8 million experiencing its severe form. Data from the organization indicated that the number of Kenyans experiencing hunger increased from 1.4 million to 4.4 million over the past year.
In Somalia, the number increased from 2.3 million to 6.7 million. While in Ethiopia, it increased from 6.8 million to 11.9 million.
By EDITH MUTETHYA